Early voting kicks off Monday
On Monday, Cape Coral voters will have their first opportunity to go to the polls and make their selections for the next mayor and for the city council seats in Districts 1, 4, 5, and 6.
But if turnout was like it was during the primary, it will be an uneventful week because most people are now voting by mail, and many of those ballots have already been returned.
Early voting starts Monday and runs through Saturday. In Cape Coral the polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at the Cape Coral Public Library, 921 SW 39th Terrace and the Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3.
Tommy Doyle, Supervisor of Elections, said he expects early voting at the polls to be not much more than a trickle. He attributes that prediction to the rise in popularity of the mail ballot.
“It’s not going to be good, but it will be better than Fort Myers, since Fort Myers doesn’t have a mayor on the ballot. Cape Coral’s race is at-large and the mayor is on the ballot,” Doyle said.
Only 1,643 early voted in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers primaries combined.
But the real action is expected to come from mail ballots. Three out of four ballots (11,112 out of 14,899) in the primaries came via mail, and that was less than 40 percent of those who requested mail ballots. Overall, 13 percent of registered voters did so during the primaries.
As of Wednesday, about 29,624 mail ballots had been sent to voters since they began going out two weeks ago. The Elections Office has received and accepted 8,791 ballot returns, or a little less than a third, Doyle said.
“That’s what we’ve been seeing, about 30 percent, that come back immediately. They’ll keep coming in a trickle, about a few thousand more,” Doyle said. “Right before election we’ll have another wave of ballots.”
Sending ballots to registered voters is a very costly proposition, Doyle said. Including printing and postage both ways, it’s about $2 a ballot. Using the number of ballots sent and the 60 percent of those who end up not voting in the primary, that’s more than $35,000 wasted.
“That happens in a municipal election. During the presidential election, we got 80 percent back. In municipal elections, people are out of town, a mail ballot comes to their house and they’re not there,” Doyle said, adding that he and other supervisors are pushing municipalities to move their election to gubernatorial or even years to get greater participation.
Doyle said following the 2012 election, when voters spent hours waiting to cast a ballot, mail-in ballots became the preferred choice for their convenience, which could change the way the office treats polling.
“They want to make it as easy as possible, and we’re a “no-excuse state,” meaning you don’t need an excuse to get a mail-in ballot,” Doyle said. “It will change our polling because we’ve only been doing this since 2012. Once we know how many mail ballots we get, we can reduce the polling places and cut that cost.”
Doyle said he expects a decent turnout in Cape Coral, even though only 13 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the October primaries. He said he expects turnout to be several points higher.
Mail-in ballots are due back by 7 p.m. on Election Day. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the polling place in your precinct.
Races on the Cape Coral City Council General Election ballot are:
Michael D. Hollow
Graham Madison Morris
Richard Leon (incumbent)
Jennifer I. Nelson
Rick Williams (incumbent)
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide elections. This means all registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.
Editor’s Note: Voters seeking more information on the candidates running may find candidate-provided biographical information as well as responses to The Breeze issue-related questions of the week here on cape-coral-daily-breeze.com under News, Election 2017.