Total number of vote-by-mail ballots requested ahead of Aug. 18 Primary already about 30% higher than previous record, set for November 2018 General Election

Supervisor of Elections Turner had expected high demand, given concerns about COVID-19

Editor’s note: This article was updated on the morning of Aug. 7 to correct the date for the previous vote-by-mail ballots record for a Primary Election. 

Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner. File photo

During his July 1 budget presentation to the Sarasota County Commission, Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner pointed out that this already was proving to be a record year for vote-by-mail requests.

Given concerns about COVID-19 infections, many citizens planned to take advantage of the option to stay away from the polls, Turner indicated, even though he and his staff were working on multiple measures to provide as safe an environment as possible for those who still wish to cast their ballots in person. (See the related article in this issue about early voting.)

In response to a Sarasota News Leader request, Rachel Denton, communications and outreach manager for the Supervisor of Elections Office, reported on Aug. 5 that staff had mailed out 124,698 vote-by-mail ballots for the Aug. 18 Primary Election.

As of that day, she added, 47,324 had been returned and accepted.

Just six days earlier, on July 31, Denton told the News Leader that 121,448 vote-by-mail ballots had been sent out by staff, with 40,484 already returned and accepted.

The largest number of vote-by-mail ballots the Supervisor of Elections Office previously had sent out for a Primary Election was in advance of the Aug. 28, 2018 Primary: 70,414, Denton wrote in an email. Then, she added, the office received and accepted 46,481.

However, the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election held the previous overall record, Denton noted, with 95,978 vote-by-mail ballots sent out and 82,492 received and accepted.

By the News Leader’s calculations, the Aug. 5 total Denton provided is almost 30% higher than that record.

Supervisor of Elections Turner has been urging citizens to return their vote-by-mail ballots as soon as possible, given delays in mail delivery that have been reported nationwide. The deadline for the ballots to reach his office is 7 p.m. on Election Day.

This flyer offers details about early voting in the county. Image courtesy Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections

The office’s website points out that requests for vote-by-mail ballots must be received no later than 5 p.m. on the 10th day before the election “to allow ample time for mailing.”

As of midday on Aug. 6, the Supervisor of Elections Office website showed a total of 330,253 registered voters in the county. Of those, 139,715 were Republicans; 104,543 were Democrats; and 85,995 were categorized as “Other.”