ORLANDO, Fla. – The race everyone seems to be talking about is the one for the Democratic presidential nomination: now mostly between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But come March 17, there are dozens of races voters will decide upon in the state of Florida -- and plus, in this state, you can only vote for a Democrat if you’re registered as a Democrat. That certainly isn’t the case everywhere.
Let’s talk more about the closed primary situation first, as the election draws closer.
What is a closed primary election state, and what does it mean for Florida?
In this case, only voters who are registered members of a political party may vote for respective party candidates or nominees for an office, according to this state website.
You had the choice to register with a party or change your affiliation at any time, but if you wanted to vote in this March 17 primary election, you had a deadline to meet, which was Feb. 18.
In Florida, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are considered the only two major political parties.
So if you’re registered with Florida’s Democratic Party and you don’t want your vote to pretty much go to waste, you can only choose between Sanders, Biden and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard: the only three names left on the ballot who are actually still in the running. Some Democratic candidates who were in the running but have since dropped out might still be listed on the ballot, and you technically can cast your vote for one of them, but all that really does is keep one of the other candidates who is still in the race from getting it. You cannot cast a vote in the GOP primary race, however, involving current President Donald Trump.
And if you’re a registered Republican, it’s the same situation. You can’t weigh in on the Democrats’ race for the presidential nomination.
If you know for certain that you’re registered, but you’re not sure with which party you’re affiliated, you can check here.
And if you’re not registered with a major party, you can’t vote in this presidential preference primary, because we’re now past that Feb. 18 deadline.
However, you’ll want to check through our voter resources below. If your county or city has any nonpartisan municipal elections on March 17 and you’re an eligible voter, you should still be able to vote in those local races.
Want to change your party affiliation for next time? Visit this link -- and remember, in the general election this November, you can vote for whomever you’d like, regardless of party.
OK then. Remind me who’s running and what’s at stake?
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with those aforementioned Democratic candidates and where they stand on the hot-button issues.
This is a cool graphic from The New York Times showing how big the field once was, compared to where it stands today, along with a bit of knowledge on each candidate or former candidate.
On the Republican side of things, Florida voters can expect to see Trump as the incumbent candidate, along with three other names: former Massachusetts Gov. William “Bill” Weld, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, who ended his campaign last month.
Florida will have an estimated 248 delegates on the line, made up of 219 pledged delegates and 29 superdelegates, according to the website Ballotpedia.
It takes 1,991 delegates to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. It’ll all become official at this summer’s 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The event is set for July 13-16.
So, not to jump ahead of ourselves, but what would happen if neither Biden, nor Sanders, hit that magic 1,991 number needed to automatically secure the nomination? Check it out.
At last check, Biden had 627 to Sanders’ 551 delegates. Gabbard had two. Yes, this screenshot does include some of the candidates who have since left the race. As you can see, they still snagged some delegates before dropping out.
Trump, for his part, needs 1,276 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination. At last check, he had 833 compared to Weld’s one. At this time, he appears to be a lock.
OK, now that we’ve talked you through the national races at length, let’s dive into the local resources.
Below, you’ll find the links you need, organized by county. Some of the counties have slightly different information listed, based on the the details provided on regional election websites.
- View polling locations, sample ballots -- all in one easy-to-use link.
- Some more sample ballots, split by city.
- Questions? Email email@example.com.
- Sample ballots can be found here.
- Locate your precinct.
- Check on your registration status.
- Contact information
- Find your precinct.
- Enter your personal information to find your specific sample ballot.
- Something to be aware of: Eustis voters casting ballots on invalid referendum, elections supervisor says
- A citizen’s guide to voting and registering
- Where to vote, what to bring
- View a sample ballot.
- Are you election-ready? A guide
Quick facts: Details and background about this specific election
When did, or when does, early voting start?
It all depends on your county.
Here’a s breakdown, but we’ll pull some bullet points from the article and list them here.
- Orange County: March 2- March 15, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Seminole County: March 7- March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Volusia County: March 7- March 14, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Marion County: March 7- March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Lake County: March 5 - March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Flagler County: March 7 - March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Sumter County: March 7 - March 14, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Brevard County: March 2 - March 14, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. (weekdays) 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. (weekends)
- Osceola County: March 2 - March 15, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
What changes should I know about this year?
- Before 2020, all voters were prohibited from taking pictures inside polling places. This year, the law is changing. Starting this election season, voters can take pictures of their ballots in Florida.
- The no-solicitation zones outside polling places/early-voting sites is now 150 feet -- meaning 150 feet from the entrance of buildings, there cannot be campaigning or any form of solicitation. However, the new law states anybody can go up to the 150-foot mark and campaign. Property owners can no longer deny a person the ability to get up to the 150-foot mark.
- Voters in Florida now have a longer period after the polls close on March 17 to prove their signatures. Election officials say if signatures on ballots do not match what is on file, voters will have two days after the election to turn in a signature cure affidavit. The two-day period ends by 5 p.m. on the second day after the election ends.
Want more information on any of those above items? We have just the link.
Everything you need to know about casting a ballot
Do you know where to go? Our polling locations above should help. Typically polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- meaning, you have to be in line by 7 p.m. and you’ll likely get in to cast your ballot.
Are you 18 years of age by Election Day?
Are you eligible to vote? If you’ve been convicted of certain types of felonies, your voting rights can be taken away. But you might be able to get them restored. To apply for clemency, search for grant of clemency and certificates, or find out more information about clemency, visit the Florida Commission on Offender Review.
All other voting and registration-related questions can likely be found here.
The voter registration deadline for this particular Florida primary was Feb. 18.
If you’re just now realizing that you’re not a registered voter, you won’t be able to vote in this upcoming primary. But don’t feel bad -- you can still vote in November’s general election if you register while there’s still time. You have until Oct. 5, according to this state website.
Florida even has a voter assistance hotline: 866-308-6739. The line is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you’re hearing or speech impaired, please contact the Division of Elections using the Florida Relay Service at 800-955-8771 (TDD) or 800-955-8770 (voice).
One final thing: Be a smart voter
As we previously mentioned, names of candidates who have dropped out of the race may still appear.
And if you cast a vote on the Democrats’ side for Elizabeth Warren, for example, you won’t be able to re-choose when you realize that later. Similarly, if you voted by mail or voted early, you can’t take your ballot back even if you voted for a candidate who has since dropped out of the race.
Other helpful links
Contact your county’s Supervisor of Elections