So few Floridians went to the polls on Tuesday that it at least gave elections officials what amounted to a test run for new optical scan technology. Given the rate of scanner failure and the slowness of the new check-in procedures, supervisors should feel fortunate the general election is still 10 weeks away.
That said, primary voters did get to speak and the low turnout in some cases produced some interesting results. When only one in eight people of voting age casts a ballot, big names and big money don't always carry the day.
Mario Rubio, brother of the state House speaker, lost his bid for a House seat from Jacksonville. Will Pruitt, brother of the Senate president, lost a House race in Central Florida. In Pinellas, Max Linn finished last in a three-way Democratic primary for U.S. House after investing more than a half-million of his own dollars. His tab ran to nearly $100 per vote.
Some newcomers did surprisingly well in Pinellas, where turnout was only 12.5 percent, and voters showed an eagerness for change on the School Board. Nina Hayden, an assistant public defender who has never run for office, led a field of five in the District 2 at-large School Board race and will face Lakewood High School teacher Sean O'Flannery in the November runoff.
On the flip side, Janet Clark, the only School Board incumbent on the ballot, barely led her four-candidate field. Clark heads into a runoff against parent activist Jennifer Crockett after receiving only 29 percent of the primary vote. In other words, more than two-thirds of voters rejected her re-election.
The dismal turnout may be owed to any number of factors, including no statewide races and few high-profile battles. But election officials need to be asking tough questions. One key consideration is timing. A primary held before Labor Day seems destined to conflict with summer travel, particularly as schools move to later calendars. In Pinellas, for example, only half of the tiny primary turnout came at the polls on Tuesday. The rest was through mail or early voting.
The presidential race is certain to turn the turnout numbers around in November, but election officials shouldn't be satisfied with these primary results.