Marion primary: Early voting begins Saturday; 20K voters have cast mail-in ballots

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More than 20,000 Marion County voters had already cast mail-in ballots for the Aug. 23 primary election by mid-day Thursday, just two days before early voting sites open for eight consecutive days.

About a month ago, the Marion County election's office mailed out 67,086 ballots for residents to fill out. The ballots must be at the elections office by Aug. 23. Ballots can be dropped off at the Marion Supervisor of Elections Office by election day.

As of Thursday afternoon, 20,674 of those ballots have been returned, according to the online tally on Marion's election's page, votemarion.com. In 2018, during the last off-year primary, there were a total of a 23,321 mail-in votes.

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Marion Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox said while Marion may receive more mail-in votes than it did in 2018, he still will be surprised if the the total voter turnout for the Aug. 23 primary tops 30%.

Wilcox compares off-year, or an election season when the president is not on the ballot, to other off-year elections, or apples to apples. Voter turnout during presidential elections usually tops 75%, while off-year turnouts are generally less than 35%.

"In 2018, it was 31.9%," said Wilcox, who was asked if this year's primary would reach that number. "I don't, unfortunately. I'm hoping it gets to the upper-20s, but I don't think we'll break 30. That would be nice. That would be great."

Wilcox pointed to the 2018 primary, which featured both the Democratic and Republican primaries for governor. This year, only the Democrats have a gubernatorial primary, with Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried battling out to face Gov. Ron DeSantis in November.

Republicans lead Marion County with 46.4% of all voters, while Democrats have 29.4% and other parties, including Independents, have 24.2%.

"Back in 2018, the Democrats had Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham, while the Republicans had Gov. DeSantis and Adam Putnam, on the primary ballot," Wilcox said. "Those were pretty good races."

But even with both of those races on the 2018 primary ballot, only 31.9% of all Marion voters went to the polls. Marion County has 266,967 registered voters. That means Wilcox believes fewer than 80,000 voters will cast votes in this year's primary.

Wilcox said the last day for residents to request a mail-in ballot is 5 p.m. Saturday, which is also the first day of early voting.

Requests for a mail-in ballot can be made by visiting www.VoteMarion.gov, by calling (352) 620-3290, or in person at the Marion Supervisor of Elections Office, 981 NE 16th St., Ocala.

Mail-in ballots must be signed by the voter and received by the Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

When and where can I vote early?

Early voting begins in Marion County at nine locations. It runs from Saturday through Aug. 20. The primary election is Aug. 23.
Early voting begins in Marion County at nine locations. It runs from Saturday through Aug. 20. The primary election is Aug. 23.

Early voting in Marion County runs from Saturday, Aug. 13, to Saturday, Aug. 20. Nine locations will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on all eight days. Here are the locations

  • Election Center, 981 NE 16th St, Ocala.

  • Belleview Public Library, 13145 SE County Road 484, Belleview.

  • Deputy Brian Litz Building, 9048 SW State Road 200, Ocala

  • Dunnellon Public Library, 20351 Robinson Road, Dunnellon

  • Forest Public Library, 905 S County Road 314A, Ocklawaha

  • Freedom Public Library, 5870 SW 95th St, Ocala

  • Reddick Community Center, 4345 NW 152nd St, Reddick

  • Silver Springs Shores Community Center, 590 Silver Road, Ocala

  • The Villages Mulberry Center, 8445 SE 156th Mulberry Lane, The Villages

Here are the candidates on the Aug. 23 primary ballot

Local elections:

• County Court Judge, Group 1 (Non-partisan): LeAnn Mackey-Barnes, Danielle B. Ruse, Renee Thompson.

• County Court Judge, Group 2 (Non-partisan): Lori Cotton, William Harris.

• County Commission, District 4 (Republican): Keith Poole (R), Rachel Sams (R), Carl Zalak III (R).

• School Board, District 2 (Non-partisan): Lori Conrad, Joseph Suranni.

• School Board, District 3 (Non-partisan): Eric Cummings, Steve Swett.

• School Board, District 5 (Non-partisan): Sarah James, Taylor Smith.

A voter made her way out of the Freedom Library in 2018 while taking part in early voting.
A voter made her way out of the Freedom Library in 2018 while taking part in early voting.

Legislative races:

• State Representative, District 20: Open primary: Luis Antonio Miguel (R) and Bobby Payne (R).

• State Representative, District 23: Open primary: Tod Cloud (R), Ralph E. Massullo Jr. (R), and Paul John Reinhardt (R).

• United States Representative, District 3:

Republican primary: Manuel P. Asensio (R), Kat Cammack (R), Justin Waters (R),

Democratic primary: Danielle Hawk (D), Tom Wells (D).

Joe Callahan can be reached at (352) 817-1750 or at joe.callahan@starbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Marion County, Florida: Elections chief predicts less than 30% turnout