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Early voting began Monday

By Staff | Oct 22, 2014

As we approach two weeks before the General Election on Nov. 4, early voting began on a variety of area races and referendums.

Early voting kicked off Monday and will continue through Saturday, Nov. 1, at 11 locations throughout Lee County. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sharon Harrington, Supervisor of Elections, said she expects early voter turnout to be a little less than what it is traditionally been.

Harrington said that’s because she has sent out a record number of mail-in ballots.

“The requests have been unbelievable. And that will take away a lot of business from early voting as well as on Election Day,” Harrington said. “I can’t anticipate how we will have long wait lines.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Harrington had received 116,432 requests and has received 58,935 of them back, which is slightly more than half.

Election Day hours will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at area precincts.

Traditionally, more than half of registered voters have cast ballots in the midterm/ gubernatorial elections. In 2010, 53.28 percent cast ballots, a sharp increase from 2006, when 47.67 percent voted. In 2002, 58 percent voted, which was an increase from 1998, when 51 percent did.

Harrington said with a close governor’s race and Amendment 2 on the ballot, she expects to exceed the last gubernatorial election.

“We could be in the 60 percent range, where we’ve been in the mid 40s. I think Amendment 2 will bring many to the polls who may not have in the past,” Harrington said.

The big race on the ballot is the gubernatorial race between incumbent Republican Rick Scott and former GOP governor now Democratic challenger Charlie Crist and others.

Among them is Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, who has been polled in double figures.

For state attorney general, incumbent Republican Pam Bondi faces Democrat George Sheldon and Libertarian Bill Wohlsifer.

Republican Jeff Atwater faces challenger Democrat Will Rankin, for Chief Financial Officer while Republican Adam Putnam faces Democrat Thaddeus Hamilton and write-in candidate Jeffrey Obos for Commissioner of Agriculture.

In the state house races, Republican Dane Eagle, District-77 faces write-in candidate Jeremy Wood. Republican Heather Fitzenhagen faces write-in Bates McLeod-Haney in District 78. Republican Ray Rodrigues will face Democrat Charles Messina in District 76.

There are two races for Congress affecting voters in Southwest Florida. In the 19th District, which includes Cape Coral, U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, who took office in a special election in June, faces Democrat April Freeman, as well as Libertarian Ray Netherwood and write-in candidate Tim Rossano.

In District 17, incumbent Republican Tom Rooney will face Democrat Will Bronson.

On the county level, incumbent Republican Brian Hamman will face Democrat Debbie Jordan for The Board of County Commissioners District 4 seat, while the District 4 school board seat, one of the more hotly contested races, has incumbent Don Armstrong facing former school board member Steve Teuber.

Special district races include the Lee Memorial Health System Board of Directors races. These races are non-partisan and everyone votes

Also on the local level, there will be two referendums.

One would limit the number of consecutive terms of the Board of County to serving no more than three consecutive four-year terms in office excluding terms of service prior to Jan. 1, 2015.

Currently, there are no term limits for county commissioners.

The other would increase the number of school board members from five to seven with five of those members to be elected by district and two countywide.

Currently, the five members must live in the district they represent but are elected countywide.

There will also be three State Amendments voters will decide. They are:

Amendment 1: To fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.

Amendment 2: Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. It allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana.

Amendment 3: Proposes an amendment requiring the governor to prospectively fill vacancies in a judicial office to which election for retention applies resulting from the justice’s or judge’s reaching the mandatory retirement age or failure to qualify for a retention election; and allowing prospective appointments if a justice or judge is not retained at an election. Currently, the Governor may not fill an expected vacancy until the current justice’s or judge’s term expires.

Harrington said there is no excuse to not vote if you have requested a mailed in ballot.

“If you have the ballot on the counter, we want it back in the mail. There is no postage. If you haven’t voted yet, get to an early voting location or vote on Election Day,” Harrington said. “We want a high percentage.”