TARPON SPRINGS — The winners of Tuesday's city election were decided well before the polls closed Tuesday night.
About two-thirds of the votes were by mail ballots cast before election day.
Voter turnout was about 19 percent. According to unofficial results from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office, 3,126 of Tarpon's 16,352 registered voters weighed in on who would fill the two City Commission seats.
In the Seat 1 race, Townsend Tarapani defeated Crissy Cladakis in his first attempt at elective office. He garnered 76 percent of the ballots cast.
Incumbent Commissioner Susan Slattery defeated Jeffrey Antous and Tim Keffalas to retain Seat 2 for a second term. Slattery, 47, received 58 percent of the votes.
Residents had requested 5,709 mail-in ballots for the city election. According to elections officials, 2,112 were cast.
"It's unfortunate," Slattery said of the amount of mail balloting. "It kind of takes the excitement out of election day."
Tarpon Springs wasn't the only city where most voting was by mail. The same was true Tuesday for every city election in Pinellas.
Both Slattery and Tarapani said the move to early mail voting has changed how candidates run their campaigns. The requested ballots were shipped to residents Feb. 1, about five weeks before Tuesday's election. Both Slattery and Tarapani sent a campaign flier to those potential mail voters at the same time.
"In this day and age, the trend has turned to where people appreciate the convenience of voting by mail," Tarapani, 25, said. "You have to recognize that, pull (voter) data before the ballots are mailed, and do your best to educate and reach as many voters as you can."
Slattery said the campaign fundraising starts sooner, too.
"I had to raise money a lot earlier and had to get a mailer out a lot earlier," Slattery said. "We still went door to door, but this is the new way and it will change how people run their elections."
During the campaign, Tarapani kept a close eye on how many mail ballots were being cast, using the supervisor of elections website. Voters didn't waste any time returning the ballots.
"I want to say the first week or so, 700 people mailed their ballots back in," Tarapani said.
Contact Demorris A. Lee at email@example.com or 727-445-4174