The March 19 primary has just one candidate for most of Florida. Here’s why it can matter

By | March 18, 2024

Tuesday is Election Day in Florida, but 58 of the state’s 67 counties are not actually having an election.

Palm Beach Gardens, Delray Beach, Longboat Key and other cities will elect mayors and commissioners on March 19 and decide policy issues such as whether to annex unincorporated neighborhoods.

But the presidential primary preference for voters everywhere else is more an exercise of civic duty and party loyalty than choosing a Democratic or Republican candidate for the fall campaign.

Support for President Joe Biden is solid enough for the Florida Democratic Party to decide not to even hold a primary. And all but one of the contenders are former President Donald Trumphave withdrawn from the race for the Republican Party nomination.

Nevertheless, election officials say there are still reasons to vote and they mailed out ballots on Feb. 8, opened early voting sites and staffed county polling places for 12 hours on Tuesday and spent another few hours mapping the vote .

The Republican Party's presidential primaries are the only elections available in 58 of Florida's 67 counties

The Republican Party’s presidential primaries are the only elections available in 58 of Florida’s 67 counties

‘Florida law requires this’: Is the March 19 vote a glitch in the state’s primary process?

Election workers, party officials and voters will participate in the exercise despite knowing that President Biden and former President Trump are the nominees because “Florida law requires it,” said former Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, an internationally recognized elections expert in Florida.

Sancho rose to prominence in the legal battles following the state’s 2000 election debacle and is credited with creating Florida’s early voting procedures and other efforts to increase voter participation. He retired in 2017.

This election exposes a flaw in the way Florida conducts primaries, he said.

Florida law allows the parties to decide who runs for the nomination, sets a December 31 deadline for the parties to submit a list of candidates for the March presidential primary, and then orders election officials from the state to conduct those primaries – regardless of nominations being decided – as they did this year.

“It’s another example of how Florida’s election system is relatively disconnected from reality. If you don’t have a real fight, why are you spending taxpayers’ money to do that,” Sancho said.

States agreed to pick up the costs for the party’s presidential primaries as part of a deal to move the candidate selection process out of the “smoke-filled backrooms and into the public arena,” according to political scientist Aubrey Jewett of the University of Central Florida .

While party nominees are often decided before Florida gets involved, Jewett said this year is an extreme example of the trend, with Democrats not holding primaries at all and the Republican Party being just as committed to its candidate.

President Joe Biden speaks about a $36.6 million federal investment in the Sixth Street corridor that will be used to transform the thoroughfare into a more pedestrian-friendly area on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, at the Pieper-Hillside Boys & Girls Club in Milwaukee.President Joe Biden speaks about a $36.6 million federal investment in the Sixth Street corridor that will be used to convert the thoroughfare into a more pedestrian-friendly area on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, at the Pieper-Hillside Boys & Girls Club in Milwaukee.

President Joe Biden speaks about a $36.6 million federal investment in the Sixth Street corridor that will be used to transform the thoroughfare into a more pedestrian-friendly area on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, at the Pieper-Hillside Boys & Girls Club in Milwaukee.

Florida has 411 cities, towns and villages, according to the Florida League of Cities, and Tuesday’s only election for voters in 354 of them, including Tallahassee, Fort Jacksonville and Fort Myers, is a GOP contest in which five of them have the six candidates withdrew from the race.

That prompted current Leon County Elections Supervisor Mark Earley to send out a reminder about the election with a disclaimer for 72% of Leon voters (142,603) who are not registered as Republicans.

“If you are registered with the Democratic Party, a minor party or a non-party member, you will not have a ballot in this election,” Earley said of early voting sites and hours.

“I Voted” stickers are ready for voters to take with them after casting their ballots during the primary election in Precint C1 at the Olde Town Depot Building in Clinton, Miss., Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

Reasons to vote and what we should pay attention to on Tuesday: Will Trump receive 93% Republican support, just like last time?

Both Earley and Jewett said that even though there is no opposition for Trump, it is still important that registered voters as Republicans who can vote in a presidential primary are able to participate in Tuesday’s election.

“It’s an example for your children and it’s a way to show that you’re proud to be doing your part for democracy,” Earley said, and “it’s good practice for the fall elections. “

He and Jewett said an opportunity to show support or opposition to a candidate should not be taken lightly.

“The primaries let your party know how you feel. There is still a lot of political wrangling between now and the national party conventions,” Earley said.

Trump easily won two previous presidential primaries in Florida, defeating Sen. Marco Rubio 45% to 27% in 2016. Rubio ended his campaign the next day, leaving Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to battle for another six weeks before Trump delivered. a knockout blow and claimed the nomination with a win in Indiana.

Four years later, when he ran for re-election as president, Trump faced only token opposition from three relatively unknown challengers in the Florida primary. He claimed more than nine of the ten votes.

Tuesday is an opportunity to gauge Trump’s support in Florida in the wake of his legal battle and a takeover of the Republican National Committee last week by Trump loyalists — including the installation of his daughter-in-law as co-chair and the firing of senior staff.

Although they have withdrawn their candidacy, favorite son Gov. Ron DeSantis and a group of former governors, including Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, remain as options on the ballot, Jewett noted.

“It may be worthwhile to send a message or signal of support or opposition to Trump,” Jewett said. “Last time (2020) he got 93%. If he does better, it will show that he really has a connection with the Republican Party in Florida.”

Furthermore, Tuesday’s primaries are meaningless unless you live in one of the few municipalities where local elections piggyback, Sancho said.

“The only important thing is the local elections – with one caveat,” Sancho said. “Unless you want to maintain a perfect voting record in every election.”

But in 58 counties you can’t vote if you’re not a registered Republican, “so this election doesn’t count for you,” Sancho said.

James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at jcall@tallahassee.com and is on X axis @CallTallahassee.

.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida March 19 primary: It’s Trump’s show, but voting continues

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *