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VOTER GUIDE: The candidates on the top issues
5:30 p.m.: Floridians have 1.5 hours left to vote. Here’s how to follow results
Thanks for following today’s coverage from polling stations and ballot boxes across the Tampa Bay region. Floridians have until 7 p.m. to cast a vote in today’s elections.
We’re wrapping up our daytime live blog as the focus shifts to tonight’s results. You can follow our night live coverage here.
Check back shortly for wall-to-wall coverage of Tampa Bay and statewide races. We have reporters stationed at candidate watch parties, as well as a team staffers analyzing results for race decisions and trends.
4:58 p.m.: Charlie Crist readies for race results in St. Petersburg
4:44 p.m.: Pinellas Republicans show up in force
4:28 p.m.: Purple Pinellas sees surge of red
4:17 p.m.: A family favors the incumbent governor
Today was Ashley-Blair Sehenck’s first time voting.
The 26-year-old, who has cognitive disabilities, cast her ballot with special accommodations provided at Greater Mount Zion AME Church.
”It was easy,” Sehenck said. “Voting’s good.”
”And we love our governor, right?” her mom Verna Sehenck, 69, said. “He always helps people, remember how we talked about that?”
The first-time voter didn’t reply.
Her father Carl Sehenck proudly took her picture. They hugged before getting in the car to return to their nearby St. Petersburg home.
4 p.m.: With three hours left to vote in Florida, ballots flow in
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4 p.m.: Republicans outpace Democrats at the polls
3:36 pm: Handing out conservative voter guides
Ray Markham, 72, did not know exactly where the voter guides he was handing out came from. He said he was given the printed white sheets of paper labeled “Conservative Candidates Corner” by friends who were “also doing the flag-waving thing.”
Markham stood outside the Pasadena Community Church voting precinct in St. Petersburg holding flags for Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican running for U.S. Congress in Florida’s 13th district, and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
”A few years ago, I paid $1.99 for gas,” Markham said. “Now under Biden, these expenses are too high.”
Markham said he knows inflation comes from a variety of factors, but he doesn’t like the way Democratic leaders are spending. He disagreed with monetary support for Ukraine.
He also volunteered for Luna’s previous campaign.
”People like Crist tell you whatever you want to hear,” Markham said. “Anna Paulina Luna is real.”
3:25 pm: Across U.S., only minor snags with voting — including Arizona
With polls open across the country, no widespread problems with ballots, long lines or voter intimidation were reported early on, though there were hiccups in some places, which is typical on any Election Day.
Vote tabulators malfunctioned in a county in New Jersey and one in Arizona, prompting assurances from officials that ballots would be counted. Some voting sites in North Carolina were delayed in opening because workers showed up late, though officials may extend voting hours. And in one Pennsylvania county, polling places scrambled to replenish low supplies of paper ballots.
“These are things we see in every election cycle,” said Susannah Goodman, director of election security at Common Cause, a group that advocates for voting access. “There’s nothing majorly concerning this morning.”
Trouble with vote-tabulation machines at 20% of polling places in Maricopa County, Arizona, generated criticism on social media but a spokesperson for the state’s elections department said the problem was minor.
“Voters have options,” spokesperson Megan Gilbertson said. “They can wait to put their ballot in the working tabulator, they can use the secure drop box, or they can go to another voting center if they don’t want to wait.”
— Associated Press
2:35 pm: Lines flow quickly at Pasadena Community Church
There are still lines at the Pasadena Community Church polling site, but they’re moving quickly.
About 25 people, including several older adults using wheelchairs, canes and walkers, currently wait outside.
A poll worker is letting in voters in groups of five. It’s still an under 15-minute wait, she said.
2:24 pm: A guide for GOP voters
At one Hillsborough County voting location, Redeemer Church on Boyette Road, Republican volunteers were handing out a guide highlighting conservative candidates.
—Juan Carlos Chavez
2:14 pm: More than half of Pinellas County has voted
Dustin Chase, spokesperson for the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections, said the county now has almost 52% voter turnout.
”We’ve already had 77,000 people cast a ballot on election day,” he said. “That actually is incredible, and we think that if you look at the 2020 numbers, we’re on track to outpace the 2020 day-of ballots.”
So far, they haven’t had any reports of wait times longer than 15 minutes, Chase said.
2:11 pm: With Republicans leading turnout, candidates weigh in
In Hillsborough County, where unofficial Republican turnout so far tops Democrats by more than 11,000 votes, candidates offered their own takes.
“I’m conservative to the core and I am with those numbers as well,” Hillsborough County Commission candidate Joshua Wostal said. “If it continues, it’s exciting.”
Wostal is the Republican running for the countywide seat held by incumbent Democrat Kimberly Overman.
“Maybe they’re just disenchanted,” Republican Scott Levinson said earlier in the day. “I guess it’s just what the people are feeling right now.”
Levinson is challenging incumbent Democrat Commissioner Harry Cohen in District 1.
Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Mariella Smith was optimistic about her race even with a strong Republican turnout.
“That’s why I ran as hard as I did starting in March 2021, so by today I feel like whatever happens, I’ll have no regrets. I fought a hard fight…I worked hard at fundraising and messaging and I went to every single forum and event that I could and talked to voters all across the county.”
Smith is challenged by Republican Donna Cameron Cepeda for a countywide commission seat.
— C.T. Bowen
1:30 pm: Republicans leading in overall turnout so far
According to unofficial data from Tampa Bay elections officials as of 1:30 p.m., voter turnout is favoring Republicans in Tampa Bay.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY: 77,381 voters have cast a ballot in person.
Along with early voters and mail-in ballots, that puts the unofficial voter turnout at 401,342, or 43.39% of the county’s 924,891 eligible voters.
That includes 163,118 registered Republicans voting so far, compared to 152,346 Democrats and 87,713 voters who are either registered with another party or independent.
PINELLAS COUNTY: 72,949 voters have cast a ballot in person.
Total voters so far, including early voting and mail-in ballots, number 353,742, or 50.86% of the county’s 695,575 eligible voters.
So far 146,174 Republicans have voted, compared to 128,121 Democrats, 78,803 voters with no party affiliation and 5,644 voters registered with another party.
PASCO COUNTY: 56,102 voters have cast a ballot in person.
Total voters so far, including early voting and mail-in ballots, number 181,868, or 44.15 % of the county’s 411,938 eligible voters.
So far, 90,340 Republicans have voted, compared to 50,885 Democrats, 37,617 voters with no party affiliation and 3,026 voters registered with another party.
To see a county-by-county tally of election day turnout across the state, go here. Polls close at 7 p.m., but because Florida has two time zones, preliminary results won’t be released until 8.
Coming into Election Day, Republicans were leading in turnout statewide by about 300,000 votes.
— Christopher Spata
1:14 pm: President Biden staying quiet on Election Day
President Joe Biden was not expected to make any public appearances Tuesday as voters went to the polls.
Indeed, well before the lunch hour rolled in, the White House called a “lid.” It’s the lingo that means the president would spend the day in the executive mansion awaiting the results of vote counting that will decide political control of Congress and, with that, how the two years left in his term will play out.
Biden’s chief spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters that Biden would have a full schedule Tuesday, including prepping for an upcoming trip to international summits in North Africa and Asia and watching the election results come in.
“We expect the president will address the elections the day afterwards,” Jean-Pierre said.
Biden’s presidency is set for profound changes no matter what the midterm elections bring. In public, Biden professed optimism to the end, telling Democratic state party officials on election eve that “we’re going to surprise the living devil out of people.”
In private, though, White House aides have been drawing up contingencies should Republicans take control of one, or both, chambers of Congress. That’s a scenario Biden said would make his life “more difficult.” Regardless of the outcome, the votes will help reshape the balance of Biden’s term after an ambitious first two years in office. — Associated Press
1:04 p.m.: Turnout worries mount for Democrats
12:27 pm: Candidates spotted around Tampa Bay
12:02 pm: Trump says he voted for DeSantis after teasing ‘big announcement’
Former President Donald Trump visited Morton and Barbara Mandel Recreation Center in Palm Beach late Tuesday morning to cast his ballot, later telling reporters that he’d voted for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “Yes, I did,” Trump said in a video, apparently responding to a reporter’s question about whether he’d voted for the Republican incumbent.
Trump said Monday he will be making a “big announcement” soon, as he teased a third presidential run.
“I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at Mar-a-Lago,” Trump said before a cheering crowd in Vandalia, Ohio, Monday night, where he was holding his final rally of the midterm season to bolster Senate candidate JD Vance.
As for the the election at hand, Trump predicted Republicans would have a “great night.”
11:55 a.m.: Crist makes his rounds in St. Petersburg
Charlie Crist made a brief stop by the Coliseum, speaking to two voters on their way to the polls before he and fiancee Chelsea Grimes hopped back into their car.
One of the voters, Cassandra Garcia, 40, recently moved from Chicago with her boyfriend. She registered in October, she said, just in time.
She came carrying her Florida voter ID card, driver’s license, passport, rental lease and even her insurance card.
“Because sadly I feel like you hear all these stories about people not getting to vote because of one minor thing, and I just did not want that to be the case today,” Garcia said, then posed for a photo with the former governor.
“Voting is a generational thing for me,” said Garcia. “My grandfather immigrated from Mexico, and my grandmother was a migrant farmworker, that’s how they met. They just came here for an opportunity, so with the things DeSantis has done the last few years, as far as lying to immigrants to get them to a city for a political stunt, I just find it disgusting. I can’t envision living in a state for a long period of time under leadership like that.”
— Hannah Critchfield
11:47 am: Voters have their say at the St. Petersburg Coliseum
“I’m feeling pretty confident about my candidates,” said Katie Wheeler, who works in advertising at Bay News 9. “I was surprised that there were no lines. But I’m confident with the way the direction’s going in Florida.”
Wheeler, who moved to Florida a few years ago, said she was happy to cast a vote for Gov. Ron DeSantis for the first time.
“It doesn’t bother me that he might leave [for a rumored presidential run],” she said. “I would be grateful to have him for a number of years, selfishly, for Florida, but that being said, I would be grateful to have him as my president.”
Florida Sen. Darryl Rouson and his wife Angela Holmes Rouson stopped by the Coliseum after casting their ballots at another precinct after gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s arrival.
“I voted in favor of the expansion of the Dali,” said Darryl Rouson.
“You did,” said Angela Holmes Rouson.
“That was the only thing we disagreed on,” the Darryl Rouson said.
“I like to have the versatility of venues, and I don’t want to see the Mahaffey going away,” Angela Rouson replied.
— Hannah Critchfield
11:23 am: DeSantis family votes
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared to bring the kids along as he and Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis cast their votes Tuesday morning. DeSantis is being challenged by Democratic congressman and former Florida governor Charlie Crist.
11:02 am: Supporting DeSantis’ record on business and immigration
Noah Velez, a 20-year-old student, said Florida needs to stick with Gov. Ron DeSantis to help locally owned businesses.
“He was one of the few politicians who came out to defend entrepreneurs and businessmen when the federal government ordered all kinds of businesses to close,” Velez said at Bloomingdale Library in Valrico. “He is a governor who champions the needs of Floridians and I like that.”
Velez said he is concerned about the state of the economy and the risks of inflation turning into a recession and costing people their jobs.
“Nobody wants that,” he said. “We want opportunities, not to be submerged in a crisis like the one we experienced in 2008.”
Velez also criticized those who say that DeSantis doesn’t care about immigrants. He supported DeSantis’ decision to send planes carrying Venezuelan and Peruvian migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
“It was a controversial order but to me was the right decision because there is a immigration crisis that must be solved. And the earlier the better,” Velez said.
— Juan Carlos Chavez
10:52 a.m.: Lines moving smoothly in Pinellas
We’re not seeing any wait times at all that are longer than 15 minutes,” said Dustin Chase, Pinellas Supervisor of Elections spokesperson.
There was at least one local polling place with a line. Former St. Petersburg City Council member Robert Blackmon said the line of about 75 to 100 people stretched around the building at Pasadena Community Church.
“We always get random questions,” Chase said, “but we’re not seeing confusion or hearing of people showing up to the wrong sites. We feel really lucky that all our voters are engaged.”
However, he added that voters should be reminded they can’t turn in any mail-in ballots at precincts. Those need to be delivered to one of the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections’ three offices. They include the Starkey Lakes Corporate Center at 13001 Starkey Road, Largo, the Pinellas County Courthouse at 315 Court Street, Clearwater, or the County Building at 501 First Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg.
— Hannah Critchfield and Colleen Wright
10:41 am: Searching for a ballot dropoff in St. Petersburg
Robbie Allen, 43, brought in his mail-in ballot to the St. Petersburg Coliseum.
But this wasn’t his voting site, he said. Election workers onsite told him to drop it off downtown, he said, but he wasn’t sure where. Allen is visually impaired. He stopped a Times reporter to ask for directions as he was leaving the building.
A poll worker then provided step-by-step instructions to reach St. Petersburg’s Supervisor of Elections office, though he didn’t have the address onhand. Allen left hoping he’d find his way.
“If you want change, you’ve got to vote,” he said. “You gotta make it happen.”
— Hannah Critchfield
10:29 am: Florida pushes back on federal request to enter South Florida polling sites
Florida’s secretary of state is pushing back on a U.S. Department of Justice request to enter polling sites in South Florida today.
Federal authorities have been regularly monitoring polling sites for civil rights violations since the 1960s. Today, members of the Civil Rights Division will be in 64 places in 24 states.
But this year, they asked to enter polling sites in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
Previously, they stayed outside polling sites, only entering if they had a consent agreement with the counties, Byrd said. In the department’s opinion, those consent agreements have ended.
“When they told us they wanted to go into our polling places, we wanted to make it clear that those are places for election workers and for voters, not for anyone else,” Byrd said during a Tuesday morning news conference.
“This is not to be confrontational in any way,” Byrd clarified. “They sent a letter to the counties asking for permission to be in the polling places. We told him that under state law, that is not permitted.”
Byrd said that officials in Missouri also are refusing to allow federal authorities to enter polling sites. In a letter to federal officials, the general counsel for the Department of State wrote that Florida officials asked for specific reasons for allowing them to enter polling sites, but they did not receive a response.
“None of the counties are currently subject to any election-related federal consent decrees,” General Counsel Brad McVay wrote. “None of the counties have been accused of violating the rights of language or racial minorities or of the elderly or disabled.”
McVay wrote that the state would send its own monitors to the three counties. “These monitors will ensure that there is no interference with the voting process,” he wrote.
Under Florida law, only official poll watchers, inspectors, election clerks, the elections supervisor, voters or people helping them vote and law enforcement or emergency personnel with permission by the clerk are allowed to be inside a polling site.
A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment.
— Lawrence Mower
10:26 am: Charlie Crist speaks in St. Pete, live on Twitter
“This is Election Day, this is our time,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist in a last-minute campaign pitch live over Twitter from his hometown of St. Petersburg. He led off by attacking his opponent, incumbent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, on abortion rights.
“Seriously, you know what’s on the line, what’s on the ballot today, a woman’s right to choose is on the ballot today,” he said. “Charlie Crist is a champion of women’s rights. Ron DeSantis has already signed legislation to ban it. Not only that, not even to have exceptions for rape or incest.”
10:20 am: Election Day, or days?
Last-minute voters are headed to the polls across the United States today — but the results of the 2022 midterm elections may not be clear for days, campaign officials and political observers are warning.
The growing popularity of early voting, long a reality in the U.S. but never more so than since the COVID-19 pandemic, has complicated the counting process, producing ominous echoes of 2020 in battleground states like Pennsylvania, where polls suggest the fight for control of the Senate is coming down to the wire.
Brendan McPhillips, the campaign manager for Democratic Senate hopeful John Fetterman, is warning supporters that the final results will likely take several days.
The U.S. Department of Justice is concerned that so-called “poll watchers” in states like Georgia, Arizona and Florida could be intent on discouraging people from exercising their right to vote. The division of the Justice Department that monitors civil rights said Monday it would be keeping tabs on the polls in 64 counties across 24 states to ensure “compliance with federal voting rights laws.”
“Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters,” the department said in a release. “The Civil Rights Division will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center.”
— Associated Press
9:48 am: Votes by registered Republicans surge in Hillsborough County
Less than 2 ½ hours after polls opened, Election Day turnout by Hillsborough County Republicans topped the combined total of Democrats and those with no party affiliation.
Just before 9:30 a.m., the Supervisor of Elections website showed 16,684 Republicans had voted today. That’s compared to 8,435 Democrats and 7,609 not registered with either major party.
Counting mail and early voting, that put overall turnout — in what has become a blue county — at 139,464 Republican voters and 137,484 Democrats.
More than 75,000 people not affiliated with either party also had voted in Hillsborough.
— C.T. Bowen
9:30 am: Voting for ‘a better future and a good economy’
Valrico resident Nelson Nieves, 56, believes the government needs change.
Born in Puerto Rico, Nives said he wants his voice to be heard. He cast his vote at Victory Baptist Church.
“Our nation deserves a better future and a good economy,” Nieves said. “We need control of our spending, stronger border policy and an affordable housing market for working families.”
Nieves came to Florida four years ago from Connecticut, and since then, he hasn’t missed an election.
“It’s my duty,” he said.
Nieves said he waited until election day to be sure his vote would be counted. He is a Republican but considers himself a flexible voter.
“I prefer to vote in person and make sure my vote is part of the process,” he said. “The most important thing is that people have to participate.”
— Juan Carlos Chavez
9:27 am: Candidate, spouse show sense of humor
A diverse stream of voters flowed into the Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg. There were no lines, but many hustled to cast their ballot before work.
In the parking lot a man held a sign reading, “Vote for my lovely wife, Audrey Henson.” Next to him stood the Florida State House District 60 candidate herself, holding a sign reading, “Vote for me, his wife, Audrey Henson.”
Henson’s Democratic opponent, yoga instructor Lindsay Cross, stood nearby with her dog Cooper.
Laura Palmer, 57, who works at the Mahaffey Theater, voted with pragmatism.
“I don’t love Charlie Crist, but women’s rights is right on my mind because I have six daughters and granddaughters,” Palmer said. “I didn’t vote for him in the primary, but the alternative to me is insane.
“The rule in my house is if you don’t vote, you can’t bitch. And I will bitch, so here I am.”
— Hannah Critchfield
9:14 am: Taking the kids along in Hillsborough County
Derek Messmore brought Nolan, 3, and Milo, 6, along with him to the voting precinct at the Philippine Art and Cultural Foundation in Tampa. Messmore applied his own “I voted” sticker to his Ron DeSantis tank top, but Milo got a sticker too.
9:07 am: The turnout so far in Pinellas
Only 32 minutes after the polls opened, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus tweeted that more than 7,700 people had voted in Pinellas County today.
8:35 am: What is Florida Googling?
Google search data provided by Google Trends offered a glimpse into what Floridians have been searching for ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Among political issue search terms, “wages” was the most-searched topic over the past week, followed by “unemployment” and “social security.”
Interest in “senate race” — that’s incumbent Marco Rubio facing Democratic challenger Val Demings in Florida — has been about even with “governor race.”
And voting searches have mostly centered around when and where to vote. (Polls are open until 7 p.m., and you can find your Florida precinct by clicking on your county here).
8:11 am: First in line to vote in Pasco County
Voter Gerard Porebski was the first in line moments before Precinct 33 opened for in-person voting at the Gulf Harbor Civic Association in New Port Richey. Polls opened across Florida at 7 a.m.
7:55 am: Breezy forecast for Election Day
The Tampa Bay area is looking at a warm, breezy Election Day with northeast winds of 10 to 20 mph, and some higher gusts, according to Bay News 9. Temperatures will reach the mid-80s, with scattered showers moving through but mostly low chances of rain. Subtropical Storm Nicole, churning in the Atlantic, is expected to begin impacting Florida on Wednesday.
6 am: It’s Election Day, with much at stake
Good morning, Florida. Election Day 2022 has arrived, and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to vote in person.
If you haven’t voted yet, you’ll need to visit your designated polling place to help decide who will become Florida’s governor, which party controls the U.S. Congress and who will fill dozens of state legislature, county commission and school board seats in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
As of Oct. 28, more than 2.1 million Floridians had voted early or by mail. Republicans showed an advantage at that time, based on registered party. Democrats last week were said to be “bringing in the big guns” to increase turnout.
To hear Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Democratic challenger Rep. Charlie Crist tell it, today’s election is a fight for Florida’s soul. We’ll also learn if Republicans gain a supermajority in the state Legislature and whether there’s support for local projects like a tax to improve public transportation in Hillsborough, an expansion of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and a giant development in Clearwater.
Meanwhile, local elections officials have been combating a steady drumbeat of myths about election fraud from an increasingly wary public.
The Tampa Bay Times will have reporters and photographers at polling places and with candidates all day long. Stay tuned to this live blog for updates, photos and interviews from the polls as Floridians cast their ballots and as results come in tonight.
Tampa Bay Times Election Coverage
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RUBIO VS DEMINGS: 5 takeaways from contentious Demings-Rubio debate