Inquiries regarding party change, voter registration overwhelm Lee County election offices

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BY SUE ERWIN – The Aug. 1 deadline for changing parties or registering to vote in this month’s primary prompted nearly 1,600 phone calls to election offices on the final day, and thousands of people changed parties to maximize their vote.

About 8,800 people changed parties in Lee County since June, mostly to Republican, Lee County elections officials said.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 9, there were 180,961 registered Republicans, 115,546 registered to no party affiliation and 112,329 Democrats, as posted on the Lee County elections website.

Because of Florida’s closed primary system, voters must be registered in the party they’re planning to vote in, which means only Republicans can vote in Lee’s congressional, legislative and county commission primaries.

People registered with no party affiliation cannot vote in those races in the Aug. 30 primary.

The elections office also included more information about those restrictions on recent voter cards and other mail to voters, Lee County Elections Supervisor Sharon Harrington said last week.

Due to the mandated legislative redistricting that became effective after the March presidential preference primary, all Lee county voters will receive new voter information cards. The Supervisor of Elections Office began mailing out new cards in July. The new voter information cards are the official cards with all the current information. The cards mailed before March were only temporary and should be destroyed.

There are still nonpartisan races on everyone’s ballot, including school board races and a constitutional amendment.

Florida does allow open primaries that anyone can vote in, if all the candidates are from the same party.

As of Aug. 9, there were a total of 153,710 requested absentee ballots countywide for the primary election. Of these,145,528 had been mailed out and 18,786 were returned.

There is still time to request to vote by mail for the Aug. 30 primary election.

Call (239) 533-8683 or visit lee.vote for more information.