Vote by mail in Florida primary already far exceeds 2016

(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Florida will elect at least two new members of Congress this year, and the Republican primaries in two districts will likely decide who they will be.

Florida has no statewide races on the 2020 ballot and voters are voting by mail in larger numbers, likely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday’s primary will largely involve legislative and congressional seats and contests for local office.

Republican U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho and Francis Rooney are leaving office in heavily GOP districts. There are 10 Republican candidates seeking to replace Yoho in District 3, which stretches from Ocala to just south of Jacksonville.

Rooney is in District 19, where nine Republicans are on the ballot, including state Reps. Dane Eagle and Byron Donalds. The district includes Naples and Fort Myers in southwest Florida.

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Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Ross Spano is facing a primary challenge from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. Spano is a first-term congressman who has faced ethics investigations over alleged campaign finance violations. The district that sits just east of Tampa leans Republican. If Spano survives the primary, Democrats will target him in November. There are three Democrats seeking the seat.

The House Ethics Committee was looking into allegations that Spano borrowed more than $100,000 from two friends and then loaned the money to his campaign. But it paused the review when the U.S. Department of Justice also began investigating it. Spano has denied any wrongdoing.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey is also facing a primary opponent in District 8, located on Florida’s Space Coast. Retired Air Force officer Scott Caine is pushing for congressional term limits and says Posey has been in Washington long enough. Posey was first elected in 2008. Caine promises to serve no more than 12 years if elected.

As of Friday, 1.9 million people had already voted by mail and more than 370,000 people had cast ballots at early voting sites. The vote by mail totals far exceed the 2016 primary, when fewer than 1.3 million people voted by mail, and ballots will continue to arrive at election offices through Tuesday. Nearly 2.4 million requested vote-by-mail ballots had not been returned.

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Catharine Skipp of Tallahassee said she has always voted in person, usually at early voting sites, since she first registered in 1999 when she turned 18. Now 39, she did not want to take any chances because of the pandemic and cast a vote-by-mail ballot for the first time.

“It was because of the virus going around,” said Skipp, a Democrat. “You don’t quite know what your life is going to be like during early voting time or Election Day, if you’re going to be sick, if you’re going to be caring for someone.”

As of May 31, Florida had nearly 4.9 million active Republican voters and more than 5.2 million active Democratic voters.

The state has nearly 3.8 million voters who either are not registered with a party or are registered with a minor party. While they can’t vote in legislative or congressional primaries, they can vote in nonpartisan local races.

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.