GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Primary elections are coming Aug. 18. The race for sheriff, tax collector and superintendent of schools are three of the most-important decisions facing Clay County voters – make that Republican voters.
Write-in candidates for all three positions kicked a convoluted law into effect that prohibits Democrats and No Party registered voters from participating.
Last Monday, July 20, was the final day voters could switch party affiliations to be part of the election process.
Since June 1, nearly 2,000 voters did exactly that, Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless said.
“All candidates for the sheriff’s race, the tax collector’s race and the superintendent’s race are Republican, and because they all face opposition in the general election, it means that the race is closed only to Republicans to vote,” Chambless said. “So, in order for an individual who is not affiliated with the Republican Party to take part in that contest, they would need to change their party to Republican.”
The voters who changed their party affiliations would not be obligated to change them back prior to the general elections, since the vote on Nov. 3 is open to all registered voters.
“That individual,” said Chambless, “would need to make a change, if they no longer want to be a part of the Republican Party, prior to the next primary. That would be 2022.”
Another concern for the upcoming elections is the loss of some poll workers.
“The first two weeks of July, I had lost 37 of my 350 election workers,” he said. “That’s understandable because 55% of my election worker pool is 65 or older. If you give creditability to the news, then you know that there are a number of individuals that will talk about older than 65 being one of the high target ranges. So yes, I am losing election workers. We’re a month out from election day, and we’re already seeing that number of loss, so that’s a little bit troubling.”
Chambless, however, is adamant the show will go on. He maintains properly executed voting protocols will remain in place.
“Thankfully, the state of Florida provides alternate opportunities,” said Chambless. “That, of course, is, first and foremost, voting by mail. No. 2 is early voting.”
Chambless stressed the security of the vote-by-mail process. “The depth that our office goes to, to verify, validate and keep confidential your vote-by-mail ballot.” For those, he mentioned, who were concerned about the mail and not being able to get their ballot back in, there is a website called trackmyclayballot.com where a voter can follow the status of their vote, from where it was mailed to the voter all the way to where the ballot was counted.
Finally, for those who prefer to do their civic duty the old-fashioned way and stand in line to vote at their polling location, be prepared for the process to take longer than it usually would. Less poll workers, combined with the constant process maintaining social distance and continually sanitizing the equipment following each voter, will elongate the process.
“If you don’t take part in voting by mail, or if you don’t take part in early voting, I want you to be prepared for a line,” said Chambless. “It just is the simple math that with 160,000 voters, and with the time it takes to go through the process, that everybody procrastinates until election day, it will take a significant amount of time.”