Orange County candidates worried about voter confusion as early voting is underway

The Orange County Supervisor of Elections office is making it clear that independent voters can cast a ballot in the primary after some candidates raised concerns.  

Early voting in the August primary is underway for all registered voters. For partisan contests, democrats and republicans can vote for their party's candidate. However, all registered voters, including those not affiliated with a party can vote on non-partisan candidates and issues, including the Orange County mayor, circuit judges, and school board candidates. 

"There’s a ballot for every voter, no matter how you’re registered to vote," said Bill Cowles the Orange County Supervisor of Elections. 

Several candidates are calling for clarity after they say some voters not affiliated with a political party may be confused on if they can vote in the primaries. They claim language on the voter ID cards that were mailed out to voters caused confusion. It said in part, "During primary elections, you may only vote for the candidates of the party in which you are registered."

Demensio Barton who is running for the Orange County Public School Board believes this gave independent voters a false impression that they cannot vote in the primaries. 

"In essence told everyone, if you were not of the two major parties, stay home," said Barton.

| Florida Primary Election Voters' Guide 2022: Where and when to vote on Election Day in Central Florida |

Chris Messina, an Orange County Mayoral Candidate, is also concerned independent voters may be confused. 

"If you don’t come out decisions will be made about who represents you, what judges are assigned to the various courtrooms, and other decisions, your vote is a sacred right. Everyone registered should vote," said Messina. 

In Orange County, 31 percent of voters are not registered to a political party. The Orange County Supervisor of Elections says typically turnout for independent voters in Orange County in the primaries is low.

The Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office has information on their website letting independent voters know they can cast their ballots during the primaries and updated the language on the sample ballot.

"As we have issued to the candidates of concern, we have stuff on our website, the message is different on the sample ballots that went out, and we have promised them that we would look at that language for future mailings of the voter information card," said Cowles.