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Early voting opens Monday

By Staff | Oct 29, 2011

Voters will decide on Nov. 8 whether they want to stay the course or dramatically shift the balance of power on city council, as three of the four seats find incumbents trying to stave off the challengers.

Voters will decide, too, which new face to put into one council seat that has no incumbent.

All of this action kicks off Monday, Oct. 31, when polls open for six days of early voting opportunities for Cape residents.

Only 11 percent of all registered voters in the city cast their ballots during September’s primary election, which narrowed down what was a packed field of council hopefuls.

The General Election candidates are:

In District 2, incumbent Pete Brandt faces challenger John Carioscia. In District 3, incumbent Bill Deile faces challenger Lenny Nesta. District 5 has two newcomers, Rana Erbrick and William “Scott” Morris. And in District 7, incumbent Dr. Derrick Donnell faces challenger Dave Stokes.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington said local elections generally carry a lower turnout compared to elections with national implications, but she’s challenging Cape Coral to do better than a mere 11 percent.

“Cape Coral has to get off the couch,” Harrington said. “The ball is in their court and if they don’t vote, then they have no right to complain.”

Cape voters can cast early ballots at two locations: The Cape Coral Branch office at 1031 S.E. 9th Place, behind the Lee County building, or at the main Election office in downtown Fort Myers, 2480 Thompson St, third floor.

Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and on Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Regardless of the precinct in which you live, early voting is open as long as you bring photo identification to the early voting location.

Also, regardless of the district in which live, you are eligible to vote for a candidate in each race, as all council candidates are elected at large.

“What we learned was that people didn’t realize they could vote citywide. They thought it was by districts,” said Eileyn Sobeck-Bador, one of the founders of “Get out and Vote … Take Back the Cape,” a facebook page that has been at odds on occasion with sitting council members. “We told them that even if your district is not up for re-election, you can still vote. Council members make choices city wide.”

Sobeck-Bador was hopeful that 25 percent of all registered voters would cast ballots in the general election, but she said it is important for voters to be educated on local procedures, as many think that elections work the same way as they did in their hometowns.

“I think it’s going to take a lot more education than one facebook page, it’s going to take the elections office and the city to help inform people,” she added.

John Cataldi, president of the Cape Coral Republican’s Club, thinks a low voter turnout will favor the challengers.

Cataldi said he’s been trying to encourage members of the Republican Club to vote, as local elections are often more important than national contests.

“Local elections are as important, if not more important,” Cataldi said. “The big picture is important, of course. But it’s the small communities and cities that really affect what makes this country.”

Lyndia Bradley, president of the Cape Coral Civic Association, said an informal poll taken of their members found that all are registered to vote.

But, it’s not enough that Civic members are engaged in their community, so Bradley said they were encouraging their members to engage others as well.

“We’re telling them to get their neighbors, their family and their friends to the polls,” Bradley said. “We’re not telling them who to vote for, we’re just telling them how important it is to vote.”

Bradley thinks elections held during even years would draw more people to the polls by default.

“People associate the even years with elections,” Bradley added.

Harrington said she was surprised by the low turnout during the primary.

She suspects that early voting will be slow but didn’t want to predict what the turnout would be for the general election.

For more information on the voting process, or about early voting, contact the Lee County Supervisor of Elections at 533-VOTE.