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Mayoral, Presidential Preference Elections Take Off In Alachua County

(Alexa Lightle/WUFT News)
(Alexa Lightle/WUFT News)

With the presidential primaries and two Gainesville city elections being decided today, Alachua County citizens have been racing to the polls.

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter said she was excited to see this election's early voting dramatically increase from 2012.

"We have had over 13,000 come in, we have processed over 13,000 absentee ballots so far, plus then we have the over 13,000 early votes in house already today," she said of the county totals. "So it's an exciting election day."

But it hasn’t been easy for everyone to cast their ballots.

One Alachua County woman, Claire Mitchell, wrote to Untold Florida: “When voting, the poll worker said my boyfriend’s signature didn’t match his license and could be thrown out. How do we know his vote counted?”

Signatures not matching is a problem other voters face when it comes to signing the poll register before voting, but the issue can be fixed.

"If it's not a match, that voter would be sent to the clerk. The clerk has another affidavit that's called a Signature Differs affidavit," Carpenter said. "They can sign that affidavit and swear the oath and then go ahead and be allowed to vote with the temporary change in their signature."

Another problem Carpenter said she's seen today is voters coming into the Supervisor of Elections office to change their addresses so they can vote at the correct precinct — something they can do until the last minute on election day.

Carpenter said her goal is to get those affected out the door quickly and to their proper precinct so they can vote.

“We seem to have a lot of voters who maybe haven’t voted in a while, so their records are not updated," she said. "Our lobby has been full all morning with people coming in, trying to make address changes and things like that.”

Carpenter has also seen issues at split precincts, which make up 14 of the 63 polling places in Alachua County. These precincts are for both Gainesville and Alachua County residents.

When voters arrive at split precincts, lines are labeled based on where they live. But some people still end up in the wrong lines, which Carpenter said can be avoided by voters being aware of their current addresses.

"It creates confusions for the voters in that a lot of people think that because their mail says they're in Gainesville, Florida, that that might mean they should get in the Gainesville line," Carpenter said. "Then they stay in that line only to find out they don't really live within the city limits and they have to go over and get in the county line."

Every four years, Gainesville's mayoral election sees a larger turnout than normal because it piggybacks off the presidential preference primary. The mayoral and presidential elections are paired because the county doesn’t have enough availability to run two large elections within weeks of each other.

For the presidential preference primary, Carpenter said she usually sees between 20 and 25 percent turnout across the county. During stand-alone elections in Gainesville, that number drops to between 10 and 20 percent.

Gainesville resident Jim Keith, who voted earlier today at the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development precinct, noted how he was participating in the election despite not taking part in the presidential preference primary.

“I always vote, and so I came even though I am a registered independent so I could only vote in the mayoral (race)," he said.

Along with the high turnout so far, Carpenter said she's seen a small change in the demographics of voters.

"We seem to see more excitement amongst some of our younger voters," she said. "We always say in here: What drives the voters to the polls are issues and candidates. So there are some candidates out there that are inspiring some voters to come out and vote."

The polls will be open today until 7 p.m.

Alexa is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing