Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
March 18, 2020
[Update: 10:58 a.m. March 19: Tulsi Gabbard has ended her campaign and endorsed Joe Biden.]
What, if anything, can we learn about Nassau County voter behavior in light of Tuesday’s Presidential Preference Primary?
According to data from the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections website, 33.15 percent of the county’s 53,851 registered voters cast their ballots in that election. Of ballots cast, most were cast via Mail (40 percent), followed by 32 percent on Election Day and 28 percent via Early Voting.
Republicans account for the overwhelming number of registered voters in the county: 39,499, or 58 percent of registered voters. Democrats, who number 14,654, account for only 21 percent of county voters. The remaining 14,251 voters are either members of small parties (962) or express no affiliation (13,289). It should be noted that because of Florida’s closed primary system, the unaffiliated or small party affiliated voters were not allowed to vote in Tuesday’s election.
Voter turnout was highest (2,096) in Precinct 102, located in Fernandina Beach with its polling place at the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center. Turnout was lowest (371) in Precinct 402 located in Hilliard.
Of the 15 Nassau County voting precincts, eight accounted for the most ballots by mail and seven recorded the most ballots through in-person voting on Election Day. Generally, mail ballots were the preferred voting method on the east side of the county, while West Siders preferred to vote on Election Day in person. In three precincts, the number of mail ballots and in-person votes were almost equal.
We have no way of knowing whether the in-person voting was significantly depressed due to fears of the COVID-19 virus, but undoubtedly health concerns played some role.
In five precincts, early voting numbers exceeded votes on Election Day.
Both voting Democrats and Republicans when viewed as blocs, voted by mail in stronger numbers than in person on election day.
The turnout among Republican voters (30 percent) was surprisingly strong, given that the incumbent president is Republiican and the three challengers were mostly unknown. As a result, President Donald J. Trump received 11,517 votes or 96.2 percent of the Republican votes cast.
The turnout among registered Democrats was higher at 40 percent. However, the Democrat ballot was longer, featuring 16 possible choices, many of whom had left the race between the time ballots were printed and the actual Election Day rolled around. Former Vice President Joe Biden received 3,806 votes or 65.31 percent of the votes cast. Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent running under the Democrat banner, received 1,073 votes or 18.41 percent of the Democrat votes cast. Tulsi Gabbard, the only other candidate still actively campaigning in the Democratic race, garnered 41 votes or 0.7 percent of the votes cast. The remaining 15 percent of the votes cast were probably cast early by mail for candidates who, while viable at the time of mailing the ballot, were no longer in the race by Election Day. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with 436 votes (7.48 percent), polled highest among those remaining 13 candidates.
The next Election Day for Florida voters is August 18, 2020. In that election, voters will be asked to choose School Board members for Districts 2 and 4. This race is non-partisan, so any registered voter may cast a ballot. However, there will also be Primary Elections for partisan elections at the state and local level. Locally, since most of the announced candidates are registered Republicans facing no Democrats in opposition, the primary takes on the mantle of a General Election.
It remains to be seen how many new voters will register before the next registration cutoff date of July 20, 2020 and whether there will be significant changes in party affiliation by that time.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.