Early voters casting their ballots in the 2016 general election in Orange County are part of history in the making, said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.
The number of early votes cast in this election is set to hit an all-time high since early voting was first instituted in 2004, he said. As of Nov. 1, 33 percent of Orange County voters had already cast their ballots. Cowles said he expects that percentage to jump up to between 55 and 60 percent by the time early voting polls close on Sunday, Nov. 6. That would beat out the last early voting record set in the county in 2008, when 145,276 voters cast their ballots early. As of Nov. 1, 139,145 voters had already visited the polls with five days of early voting remaining.
“A lot of people have said this campaign seems to have been going on forever … I think people are just ready to vote,” he said.
High early voting turnout, Cowles said, could mean shorter lines at the polls on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
“Those who go to vote on Election Day, I expect, will find their poll locations pleasantly easy to go through,” he said.
Cowles said he expects early voter turnout to continue to grow throughout this week, as last minute early voters head to the polls and stamp their mail-in ballots this weekend. Before heading out, voters can check the Orange County Supervisor of Elections’ website to check wait times at each of the 17 early voting sites within the county. Before Election Day, registered Orange County voters can cast their ballots at any of the voting sites between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Cowles said wait times have teetered between 15 and 30 minutes for most of the early voting period.
Anticipating the record-high turnout, Cowles said Orange County opened five new early voting locations, including the one at Maitland Community Park. That location, Cowles said, has taken the strain off of the popular Winter Park Public Library polling location. Maitland Community Park, as of Nov. 1, saw 2,385 voters, compared to WPPL’s 7,504.
Since the polls opened, Cowles said his office hasn’t received any complaints about conduct at its voting sites.
“I’m very proud of the voters of Orange County for how they’ve handled the voting process,” he said.
On the ballot
For Winter Park and Maitland voters who’ve yet to head to the polls, there’s still time to prepare. Here’s a run down of who – and what – is up for vote.
Aside from the contentious presidential race, local voters are also tasked with electing a U.S. senator, member of Congress, state senator, state representative, and county commissioner. You can view an electronic sample ballot of the one you’ll see at the polls online at ocfelections.com
There are two unrelated Murphys on the ballot, each challenging well-established Florida Republicans. Democrat Patrick Murphy is running against former Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, and Democrat Stephanie Murphy – a professor at Rollins College – is taking on 24-year incumbent Rep. John Mica for a seat in Congress.
On a more local level, another longtime politician is up for reelection. Ted Edwards is running for what could be his last term on the Orange County Commission. He’s up against against entrepreneur – and political newcomer – Emily Bonilla.
Orange County voters are also casting ballots to fill other county-level positions including: clerk of the courts, sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, supervisor of elections, three county judges, one circuit judge, and three soil and water conservation district supervisors.
Also on the ballot are four state constitutional amendments, and four Orange County charter amendments.
Lighting up the most debate amongst those amendments is constitutional amendment No. 1, which deals with solar energy. Proponents of the amendment say it protects Florida’s solar consumers, while those opposed argue that the amendment is deceptive and actually anti-solar. You can read both sides by visiting smartsolarfl.org and flsolarchoice.org
Floridians also get the chance to vote (again) on the legalization of medical marijuana in constitutional amendment No. 2. A yes vote would allow those with debilitating medical conditions access to marijuana. A no vote would keep the practice illegal. See what both sides of the argument have to say at unitedforcare.org and voteno2.org
Constitutional amendments No. 3 and 5 deal with tax breaks for specific sections of the population. Amendment No. 3 proposes allowing permanently disabled first responders injured in the line of duty to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property. Amendment No. 5 proposes revising the homestead tax exemption for property valued at less than $250,000 owned by certain senior, low-income or long-term residents. The change would specify that the property value is determined in the first tax year in which the owner applies and is eligible for exemption.
On the county level, Orange County residents are voting on changes to the county’s petitioning process, term limits, and partisanship of elections.
Question 1 proposes reforming the petition process for how residents get charter amendment changes on the ballot. A yes vote would add new rules to the process, including the need for more signatures to get items on the ballot. A no vote would keep the process as-is.
Questions 2 and 3 deal with amending the Orange County Charter to make the positions of sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, clerk of circuit court, and comptroller non-partisan, and limiting those serving in those roles to four consecutive four-year terms.
For more information about where to vote and what you’ll be voting for, visit ocfelections.com