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What The August Primary Could Mean For Voting In Future Elections

A voter casting a ballot in person at a Miami-Dade polling site.
via Miami Herald
File photo

South Florida voter turnout hit a record high for a primary—27 percent of local voters turned out this August compared to less than 20 percent turnout in the 2016 August primary.

Hundreds of thousands of people used vote-by-mail to cast their ballots in this week’s election — a big jump from previous elections.

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Broward elections supervisor Peter Antonacci said that his office is preparing to deal with more vote-by-mail ballots ahead of November's presidential election, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“We're gonna have to be in much better shape for November because we had about 212- to 213 thousand vote-by-mail ballots for this election,” he said during a media call Wednesday. “We will have at least double that. It's a big challenge."

Meanwhile, the tight race for Broward’s next supervisor of elections triggered a recount that began Friday.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked about voting with three opinion page editors from South Florida’s major news organizations: Nancy Ancrum with the Miami Herald, Rick Christie with the Palm Beach Post and Rosemary O’Hara with the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: The process of voting is one of the stories in this election cycle, as much as it is about candidates and issues. Rick, how are you hearing that? How do you think that's going to kind of influence maybe policy or the candidates into November?

RICK CHRISTIE: One thing I'm starting to notice is that we're going to see candidates actually talking about it more. Talking about the integrity of the vote, telling people how to make sure that their votes will be counted. That's gonna be one of the interesting things I think we'll see in campaign messaging.

Honestly, as we tried our best to expand people's ability to vote, it's kind of a Catch 22. Providing endorsements, in my mind, is one of the most important things that we do as editorial page editors. We're gonna find ourselves in this position, O.K., do we want to have all of our endorsements done by the time people receive their mail-in ballots? Or do we want to wait a little bit? That's what we're kind of wrestling with now, because a number of these campaigns are going to be very competitive.

HUDSON: Rosemary, that is apropos of our times, that there's few people on the fence politically, moving into the November election, certainly at the presidential side. That talking about the process becomes almost a replacement for talking about the candidates, because talking about voting access and the ease of voting has been politicized by this president.

ROSEMARY O'HARA: I think we all agree that the presidential election goes on far too long. But in the other elections, by the time that we have qualifying, so we know for certain whose names are on the ballot, the mail-in ballots go out four weeks later. As soon as people get their mail-in ballots, they want to fill them out and send them back. An election for a city, for the state Legislature or Congress, the ballot is not firmed up. The mail-in ballot for November is going out in like four weeks. So there's right now we're having to make these decisions about all these races. We just found out Tuesday who's going to be on the ballot. So the campaigns for all the other races are far too short because how we vote is changing, as we've seen in this election. People want to vote by mail. So the process, the timelines need to keep up with how that process is changing.

HUDSON: Nancy, this kind of process of voting and how that has really dominated the political conversation and will likely continue to with this focus on the post office and this focus on vote-by-mail balloting.

NANCY ANCRUM: That is exactly where the focus should be because the process is now under attack. Voters need to pay attention. Voters need to understand that there are political forces, emanating really from the Oval Office, that are trying to thwart their right to vote. This is something that some members of this society—African-Americans specifically dating back to Jim Crow—understand in their gut. We need the wider population to understand just what voter suppression means. We are seeing it in real time. Yes, the process of voting needs to take precedence right now.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN.  He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.