Pinellas County voters — with a record number of absentee ballot requests — have now cast more than 71,000 primary ballots as of this weekend, counting both mail-in and early voting.
As of Aug. 16, 250,229 ballots have been mailed by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office, a number more than double that of 2012. Of that, 70,949 — just over 28 percent — have come back.
In-person early voting, which began throughout the county on Saturday, added another 173 votes. Early voting will continue through Sunday, Aug. 24.
In 2012, the county sent out only 102,341 mail-in ballots, according to Deborah Clark, Pinellas Supervisor of Elections.
Current voter rolls show Pinellas County leans slightly Democratic; as of July 2014, there are 618,250 registered voters in Pinellas County: 223,863 Democrats, 219,648 Republicans and 149,623 No-Party-Affiliation.
However, the numbers of mail ballots issued by the county are slightly more Republican than Democratic – 99,219 GOP votes (40 percent of all ballots mailed) compared to 96,059 Democratic (38 percent). The remaining 22 percent (54,951 votes) were designated “Other.”
From the count of returning ballots, it is not immediately clear if one party has taken an early advantage, since the majority of votes cast are split roughly between the two parties, although there is a slight break towards the GOP.
So far, about 500 more Republican ballots have come back than Democratic ones — 29,913 to 29,468 — each representing about 42 percent of the nearly 71,000 ballots returned. Sixteen percent of the total ballots returned (11,568) were from “others.”
Voters will be asked to determine who faces off this November in a number of state and local contests: Republican primaries for governor/lieutenant governor, state Senate District 20 and House Districts 64, 65, 67 and 68, as well as Pinellas County commissioner races for at-large District 2 and single-member District 4.
In House District 64, the primary votes will not count, under orders from a Leon County circuit judge, who ruled that Donald John Matthews, the write-in candidate, was ineligible. As a result, the formerly closed GOP primary moves to November and open to all voters in the district.
The HD 64 primary between incumbent Rep. James Grant and Miriam Steinberg will (as of now) appear on the general election ballot as a Universal Primary Contest, although an appeal by Matthews is pending.
As for the various Democratic primaries, voters get to choose who will be running for governor/lieutenant governor—either former Gov. Charlie Crist or former state Sen. Nan Rich—as well as attorney general and state representative for District 67. There will also be a universal primary for Pinellas County commissioner single-member District 6, in addition to five nonpartisan races for Sixth Circuit judge and four County School Board seats.
For more information on early voting times, dates and locations, visit www.votepinellas.com.