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Florida’s 2024 presidential primary, explained

The presidential preference primary is March 19, but voting has already begun.
 
Randy McKinney of Clearwater holds "I Voted" stickers after casting his ballot at the Supervisor of Elections Office at the Pinellas County Courthouse during early voting on Oct. 19, 2020, in Clearwater.
Randy McKinney of Clearwater holds "I Voted" stickers after casting his ballot at the Supervisor of Elections Office at the Pinellas County Courthouse during early voting on Oct. 19, 2020, in Clearwater. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Feb. 7|Updated Feb. 17

Florida’s March 19 presidential primary is more than a month away. But for thousands of voters, the election is already here.

County supervisors of elections have already sent mail ballots to military and overseas voters. Hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots have been sent to domestic voters.

The presidential primary can be confusing. Every state does things a little differently. Some states — or parties — don’t have a primary at all. And in some Florida counties, the primary coincides with important local races.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2024 Florida presidential primary.

Only Republicans can vote in the Republican presidential primary.

Florida is a closed primary state, meaning only Republicans can vote for a Republican presidential candidate. The deadline to register to vote or switch party affiliation is Feb. 20.

There will only be a Republican presidential primary in Florida. The Florida Democratic Party opted to put only President Joe Biden’s name on the 2024 primary ballot, effectively — and somewhat controversially — canceling the party’s primary.

In some counties — but not every county! — the only thing on the ballot will be the GOP race for the presidential nomination.

People of all parties can still vote in other races.

In some counties, the presidential primary won’t be the only thing on the ballot March 19. Local communities will pick their leaders in several important down-ballot races. In Pinellas County, for example, Clearwater will pick its new mayor and two other City Council seats. Ten other municipalities will pick leaders or decide ballot referendums.

Elections officials are urging voters of all party affiliations to check their local supervisor of elections website to see whether their community is voting on a local matter on March 19.

Gov. Ron DeSantis will be on the ballot.

DeSantis dropped out of the presidential race in January after the Iowa caucuses. But even some candidates who are no longer actively campaigning for president will appear on the primary ballot. That’s because Florida’s deadline for removing names from the ballot came in December, weeks before some candidates announced they were leaving the race.

The candidates who will appear on the ballot are Ryan Binkley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Vivek Ramaswamy and Donald Trump. A vote for any of these candidates will still be counted, even if the candidate has dropped out of the race. There will be no write-in option.

You can still request a mail-in ballot.

Voters have until 5 p.m. on March 7 to request a ballot be mailed to them from their local supervisor of elections.

Some other important dates to know:

  • In-person early voting will take place March 9-16, as well as some potential additional dates, depending on the county. Check your local supervisor of elections website for early voting locations and dates.
  • Mail-in ballots must be returned to the elections supervisor by 7 p.m. on March 19. People voting in person that day must go to their assigned precinct.
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Clarification: This story has been updated since initial publication to correctly reflect the mandatory early voting period and to note that some counties may also use additional optional early voting days.