Campaigning continues for three candidates, hoping to win the Jan. 14 special primary to decide the Republican’s candidate for the March 11 election for the District 13 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Nearly 32,000 of the county’s 170,047 Republicans eligible to vote in the primary had cast their ballots by Sunday afternoon. Most made their selection through mail ballots - 31,338, or 39.9 percent, of 78,531 ballots distributed had been returned to the Elections Office as of Saturday, Jan. 11. Reports show that 365 cast ballots during early voting, which ended Jan. 12.
Republicans are deciding between Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters to face Democrat candidate Alex Sink and Libertarian Party of Florida candidate Lucas Overby on March 11.
Gov. Rick Scott ordered the special election after longtime Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young died Oct. 18. Young served as District 13’s Representative in Congress for 42 years. District 13 encompasses the majority of Pinellas County with the exception of precincts north of Dunedin and some in south St. Petersburg.
According to the Supervisor of Elections Office, the cost estimate for the special election is just over $1 million - $458,668 for the Republican primary and $604,021 for the general election. The cost would have been higher had a Democratic primary been necessary, but Democrat Alex Sink was unopposed.
Florida’s primary elections are closed. Only those registered as a member of the political party having an election can participate.
Voters who plan to participate by mail ballot must ensure that the ballot is returned to an Elections Office by 7 p.m. Election Day. Mail ballots cannot be returned to the polls. Voters can drop them off at an Elections office or designated ballot drop-off location.
Remote ballot drop-off locations include:
• Three Tax Collector Offices - open weekdays, 29399 U.S. 19 N. (near Curlew), Clearwater; 1663 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater; and 1800 66th St. N., St. Petersburg
• Public libraries - open weekdays and Saturdays, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole; and 7770 52nd St., Pinellas Park
Ballots may be picked up at an Elections Offices through Monday, Jan. 13. A new state law permits voters to pick up and vote on a mail ballot in an Elections Office on Election Day only in the case of an emergency. The law requires voters or their designees to sign an affidavit affirming that the voter is unable to go to his/her polling place on Election Day due to an emergency and provide the reason for the emergency.
A voter who willfully affirms falsely to any affirmation in connection with an election can be convicted of a felony of the third degree, punishable pursuant to Florida Statutes 104.011 and 104.041, according to Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark.
On Election Day, Jan. 14, registered Republicans in 225 precincts will go to one of 167 polling places, as assigned. Unofficial election results will become available soon after the polls close at 7 p.m.
A new state law will delay certification of the results until 10 days after the election to allow counting of overseas ballots. The ballots must be postmarked or dated no later than the date of the election and received no later than 10 days after the election.
Clark said the rule has previously been applied to federal elections, but beginning with the Jan. 14 primary will be in effect for all elections. Deadline to certify election results is noon 12 days after an election.