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South Florida Sun Sentinel

‘Very, very low’: Voter turnout was light for Broward and Palm Beach County elections

By David Lyons, Shira Moolten, Amber Bonefont, South Florida Sun-Sentinel,

2023-03-14
Voters head to cast their ballots on Tuesday at the Community Presbyterian Church in Deerfield Beach. Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS

South Florida saw light voter turnout Tuesday, as both candidates and officials pointed toward a decline in mail ballots contributing to a small percentage of eligible voters casting ballots in the municipal elections in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The polls closed at 7 p.m. The election turnout was “very, very low, and unfortunately it was expected,” said Ivan Castro, spokesman for Broward County’s Supervisor of Elections. The lower expectations arose from a new state requirement that voters reapply for mail ballots, a process that many apparently overlooked. Officials agreed it played a role in depressing turnout.

“I think it does, it absolutely does for sure,” said Broward County Mayor Lamar Fisher at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, where he served as a member of the Canvassing Board. “Every two years you have to apply for the absentee mail-in ballot, and people are going to forget and they are just not going to vote.”

Fisher predicted that turnout will be affected “for future elections,” including in 2024.

In 2021, Broward’s March municipal elections drew 14% of eligible voters to cast ballots, Castro said, compared with just about 7% seen in Tuesday’s election.

The six communities that had elections in Broward were Deerfield Beach, Coconut Creek, Hillsboro Beach, Miramar, North Lauderdale and Pembroke Park. Seventeen communities held elections in Palm Beach County, including Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, as well as Boca Raton, whose voters weighed in on a referendum.

In Palm Beach County, municipal elections had a smooth, but slow start.

As of 7:30 p.m., about 12.1% of eligible voters in Palm Beach County had voted in the March election.

“The day was definitely smooth,” said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link. “But turnout was not as high as we would have liked.”

Some polling sites saw steady turnout throughout the day, while others didn’t see many voters, according to Link. Among the busier polling locations were Juno Beach, Ocean Ridge, Hypoluxo, Mangonia Park and Delray Beach.

“The poll workers were well-trained and staff was ready,” Link said. “It was a smaller election for us than the big countywide ones we just finished. I think everything aligned very well.”

Link said lower turnout could partially be attributed to lower vote-by-mail ballots being turned in, and many voters not being prepared or aware of needing to update their vote by mail-ballot requests.

The small number of voters Tuesday could be seen at polling sites: It was a slow morning at Veterans Park in Delray Beach, one of the busier polling locations in the city, where Seat 2 Commissioner Juli Casale and her challenger, Rob Long, stood on opposite sides of the parking lot for several hours, waving signs and talking to potential voters.

Many of the people walking through the park were headed to the Lady Atlantic boat docked nearby, not the polling center. “Voters or boaters?” Long would ask. Most responded with “boaters.”

Staff writers Lisa J. Huriash and Juan Ortega contributed to this report.

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