Voter turnout in Orange County surprisingly high

Big races, big money draw big crowds

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The 2018 primary election may bring the biggest voter turnout in four decades, according to News 6 political analyst and University of Central Florida history professor Dr. Jim Clark.

"We believe a third of the ballots will be cast by election day, either through mail-in or early voting," Clark said. "More than a million Floridians will have voted. Historically, voter turnout has been low, sometimes as low as 14 to 16 percent. This year, we think it could be over 20 to 21 percent. So it's going to be a fascinating year."

On Tuesday, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles confirmed the surprisingly high voter turnout.

He said that, as of Tuesday afternoon, around 12,500 people had voted early.

By this time in 2016, a presidential election year, 11,888 people had voted in the primary. That number was 9,881 in 2014.

Overall in Orange County, voter turnout was a little more than 7.5 percent, with 58,765 people having voted out of 772,483 registered voters.

Seminole County's supervisor of elections said voter turnout is tracking about where he expected it to be, but it is up from 2014.

Cowles called the healthy turnout an "encouraging sign."

"I think one of the things we underestimated is voters are tired of the negative commercials," Cowles said. "They're tired of their mailbox being filled with flyers. They're tired of the robocalls. And I guess the newest thing this year is candidates are sending out text messages on their iPhones. So people are just disgusted. They want to get out and vote, and their name comes off the list and candidates don't have to call or mail them anything."

Clark said voters understand several key races will be decided Tuesday night and candidates will be whittled down.

"We have something driving this that we haven't had in forever, perhaps: competitive primaries in both parties for governor," Clark said. "Four years ago, everybody knew the Democrats would pick Charlie Crist and everyone knew the Republicans would pick Rick Scott. Why bother to vote (in the primary)? This year, you've got all of these candidates. They're spending big bucks, you've got President Trump involved, all these things are moving interest in the election."

Clark said Trump's decision to endorse and stump for candidates is also driving voters to the polls.

"You have people who are big Trump supporters who may never have really cared about Florida votes, especially primaries, who are going to come out for (Ron) DeSantis," Clark said. "On the Democratic side, you have a number of candidates with followings all over the state."

Clark expects one-third of all votes will be cast before election day, so some races may potentially be decided before Tuesday.

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