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Droves of Lee voters cast their ballots early

By CJ HADDAD - | Oct 28, 2020

cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

More than 240,000 ballots have been cast in Lee County in the ongoing early voting period as the country inches closer to the polarizing Nov. 3 General Election.

As of early Monday, the voter turnout throughout the county topped 49 percent as lines formed outside of Early Voting election centers with those eager to see their ballot counted and mail ballots proved even more popular. As of Monday morning, 185,649 mail ballots had been received and 55,669 residents had voted in person.

“We are experiencing a high voter turnout in Early Voting and that is a good thing,” said Lee Elections spokesperson Vicki Collins. “Some of our Early Voting sites have lines with increased wait times due to the number of people turning out to vote and the sanitizing and social distancing policies we employ for the safety of our poll workers and voters.”

This is the first time in quite a while that Cape Coral’s election has lined up with the General Election, resulting in a much higher voter turnout here as well.

As of press time Thursday, 10,184 ballots were cast across the three Cape Coral Early Voting locations.

In 2017 Cape Coral Election, only 1,179 ballots were cast during the entire Early Voting period, according to Lee Elections archives.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle believes “it is important to have your voice heard and participate in the process of electing the leaders of your government, from the local level on up to the federal level.”

The Elections Office has already seen issues with the way voters are completing their ballots. Lee Elections officials say they are receiving many ballots where a voter has darkened the circle next to a candidate’s name and doing the same for a write-in candidate, effectively nullifying the vote.

“It is extremely important for voters to read and follow the instructions on the ballot when voting,” Collins said. “When a voter fills in an oval for their candidate and then fills in the oval for the write-in candidate, that is an overvote. When the voter places the ballot in the scanner, they will have the option to cast the ballot or return it and correct the overvote. Voters may ask a poll worker for assistance at any time.”

The office is also working hard to keep residents and poll workers safe at voting sites.

“Our poll workers are required to wear masks. We do not require voters to wear a mask, but as a simple courtesy to our poll workers, we are requesting our voters wear a mask,” Collins said. “We have them available for those who may not have one.”

Voters may choose to vote at any one of the Early Voting sites from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Saturday, Oct. 31. Florida election law requires voters to present a current and valid form of picture identification before voting.

Collins said the two locations with the least amount of voters are the Dr. Carrie Robinson Community Center and Riverside Community Center. Custom sample ballots are available on the Lee Election website. “We encourage our voters to print out their sample ballot, mark their selections, and bring them with them to vote,” Collins said.

Races in the 2020 General Election include:

U.S. House of Representatives D-19

The District 19 U.S. House of Representatives race comes down to Republican nominee Byron Donalds and Democratic choice Cindy Lyn Banyai.

Donalds earned the nomination in a crowded GOP primary, edging out State Rep. Dane Eagle in a closely contested race.

Banyai defeated David Holden to earn her party’s nomination.

Patrick Post has qualified for the General Election as a write-in candidate.

State Senate District 27

The Florida Senate District 27 race features Republican nominee Ray Rodrigues against Democrat Rachel Brown.

Rodrigues defeated Heather Fitzenhagen to earn his party’s nomination.

State House District 79

The District 79 State Representative race sees Republican incumbent Spencer Roach taking on Democrat Danika Fornear.

Roach defeated Randy Allen-Scott in the GOP Primary Election.

Lee County Commission

County Commission District 1: Kevin Ruane, Republican. Kelsey Hotchkiss, a write-in candidate has also qualified.

County Commission District 3: Ray Sandelli (incumbent) Republican and Todd James Truax, Democrat. Molly Hannigan has qualified as a write-in.

County Commission District 5: Frank Mann (incumbent) Republican and Juan Gonzalez, Democrat. Kayley McHugh has qualified as a write-in.

Lee County School Board

School board races are non-partisan and are elected by district with the exception of the at-large race, which is open to all voters regardless of party affiliation or the district in which they live. If the race is not on your ballot, you live outside the district and so may not vote in that race.

District 2: Melisa Giovannelli (incumbent) and John F. “Jeff” McCullers.

District 3: Chris Patricca (incumbent) and Jacqueline Perez.

District 7, at large: Cathleen Morgan (incumbent) already elected in Primary.

Lee County Sheriff

Candidates for Lee County Sheriff, a constitutional office, are Carmine Marceno, (incumbent) Republican; Robert Neeld, Democrat; and Michael “Coach Ray” Qualls and Carmen McKinney, both of whom are running with no party affiliation.

Lee County Property Appraiser

Republican primary victor Matt Caldwell. Elaina Cosentino has qualified as a write-in candidate.

Lee County Mosquito Control

District 1: Incumbent Ed Brantley, Melissa Dortch and Taruas Anthony Pugh

District 3: Incumbent Mike Ellis and Jim O’Connell

District 5: Williams Patrick Burke and incumbent George “Pat” T. Mann Jr.

Lee Memorial Health System

Voters can select up to two candidates for each seat.

Seat 1: Incumbent Steve Brown, Therese Everly and Carol Ann Turiello

Seat 3: Sandy Cohen, incumbent David Collins, David H. Klein and Carol Anne Morris

Seat 5: Kathy Bridge-Liles, incumbent Jessica Carter Peer and Stephanie Lucinda Meyer

In addition, the following constitutional amendments will be up for a vote:

Amendments

No. 1 — Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections

This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least 18 years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election.

No. 2 — Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage

Raises minimum wage to $10 per hour effective Sept. 30, 2021. Each Sept. 30 thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour on Sept. 30, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting Sept. 30, 2027.

No. 3 — All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet

Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective Jan. 1, 2024.

No. 4 — Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments

Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.

No. 5 — Limitations on Homestead Assessments

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective date Jan. 1, 2021, to increase, from two years to three years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.

No. 6 — Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities

Provides that the homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to such veteran’s surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property, until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect Jan. 1, 2021.

For more information, visit www.lee.vote.

— Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj