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Florida Voters On Why They Cast Ballots In The Primaries

Miami Herald

Approximately one out of every four eligible voters in Florida cast a ballot in the state's primary elections last month. 

Voter turnout was up, but not by much. Eighteen percent of voters cast a ballot four years ago, in the 2014 primary midterms, compared to the roughly 25 percent who did in the primaries this year. 

More than 23.5 percent of registered voters in Broward participated — doubling the number of voters in the last non-presidential election. In Miami-Dade, turnout reached 21.3 percent compared to 14 percent in 2014. In Palm Beach County, however, voters barely showed up — only 13.6 percent of voters cast ballots. 

Read MoreDemocrats' 2018 Primary Turnout Mirrors Previous Wave Elections

Florida is a closed primary state, which means only registered Republicans and Democrats can vote. It's one of only nine states in the U.S. bound by these rules. More than a dozen states, including Georgia, Virginia and Michigan, allow non-party affiliated (NPA) voters to vote across party lines.

There are 3.5 million NPA voters in Florida.

Joshua Beatty, who lives in Plantation, is one of them. Until Florida allows open primaries, "we're going to keep seeing such low numbers" at polling stations, he said. 

The next big change to Florida's voting system isn't likely to be an open primaries, but it could be regional voting centers, according to the Miami Herald, making traditional polling places a thing of the past. The centers, as they exist in at least one state that has them, gives eligible voters the opportunity to vote anywhere in their county. Residents would not be obliged to vote at a specific polling location.  

“Vote centers would eliminate any confusion voters may have about where they are required to vote on Election Day, because they could vote anywhere," Hillsborough County elections chief Craig Latimer told the Miami Herald. 

The concept would have been beneficial for Adam Elsayed, who lives in Miami Beach. He tried voting, but ended up at the wrong precinct. The one he was supposed to go to was further from his home, which made no sense to him.

"Why can't we just vote at all voting location?" he asked WLRN via text message.

WLRN asked South Florida voters who did cast a ballot to convince the 70 percent who didn't show up to vote. Here's what some of our listeners had to say:

Three people talk about their voting experience.

One of the reasons Cordelia Jones, a resident of Lake Worth, casts her ballot on voting day is because her ancestors weren't able to. They died without the right to vote, she said, "the least we can do as African Americans is honor them by voting."  

Rebecca Amster, a voter in Kendall, said she was inspired by the suffrage movement, the struggle for the right of women to vote.

"Your opinion is important and you should voice it," she said. 

Katie Lepri Cohen is WLRN's engagement editor. Her work involves distributing and amplifying WLRN's journalism on social media, managing WLRN's social accounts, writing and editing newsletters, and leading audience-listening efforts. Reach out via email at klcohen@wlrnnews.org.
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