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Primary turnout under 13%

By Staff | Oct 5, 2017

If you went to the polls Tuesday to cast a vote in the Primary Election, you probably didn’t have to wait in line. In fact, you may have been the only voter there.

That’s because not only was turnout barely in the double digits again this municipal election year, most who did vote did so by mail.

In the 30 voting precincts in Cape Coral, only 12.98 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. Of the 14,899 residents who voted , 11,112, or almost three-fourths, did so via mail of the 29,872 mail ballots requested.

The good news is that turnout was slightly better than two years ago when just 11 percent voted.

Tommy Doyle, Lee County Supervisor of Elections, said there’s really no reason for people to not take local elections seriously. They may pale in comparison to national races, but they often have the greatest impact on voters.

“When you look back historically, municipal elections aren’t taken seriously. I don’t know why because they’re important,” Doyle said. “The vote by mail is what increased the turnout.”

Joe Mazurkiewicz, former mayor and a political consultant, said turnout in the teens is always disappointing, and it could have ramifications through the involvement of outside interests.

“The community is not interested in local government, which has the greatest influence. It gives special interest groups a huge say in what goes on,” Mazurkiewicz said, adding he isn’t entirely sure why voter turnout has been so low in the past several election cycles, but that they have resulted in huge swings on city council over the past few elections.

Doyle has noticed in Cape Coral the desire of the voters to bring in new people.

Rana Erbrick and Derrick Donnell, both former Cape Council members, and April Freeman, twice a congressional candidate, failed to qualify for the general election as mayoral candidates.

“In the past few elections, the common goal was to remove people. There’s always drama going on over there. And since 2016, people there have been looking for a change,” Doyle said. “The ones who raise the money to do the mailings of their message, are the most successful in getting their name out.”

Mazurkiewicz said the prime example of that is the mayoral race, where Joe Coviello and Mike Hollow, two men who come from the business sector and have not served in a policy making position.

“The people who cared enough to come out are looking for fresh faces and ideas,” Mazurkiewicz said. “The candidates for mayor have been involved in the local community and not the act of governing. There’s no record there.”

Mazurkiewicz said that’s not necessarily a bad thing, provided their ideas are sound ones.

“If the ideas promote harmony and success in governance, it’s a great thing and that’s what we hope for. If it creates turmoil and the inability to do any public policy, then it’s problematic,” Mazurkiewicz said.

Doyle and Mazurkiewicz agree that Hurricane Irma and its lingering impact may have had an impact on voter turnout, so a bounce in participation is possible.

But with only a month before Election Day and the fact the primary was pushed three weeks by Irma, everyone is going to have to doubletime it, especially the elections office, Doyle said.

“We’re pushing hard to get the mail-in ballots out next week. We have about 28,000 ballots going out by Tuesday. We also have a week of early voting,” Doyle said.

Mail ballots are expected to be sent out early next week, Doyle said, and must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Early voting will take place from Monday, Oct. 30, to Saturday, Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Cape Coral Public Library, 921 SW 39th Terrace.