Florida’s primary elections take place this year on Aug. 28, 10 weeks before the General Election. The primaries determine who is running for local and statewide offices for the Democratic and Republican parties.
But even though you may not be affiliated with a political party, you still face some very important choices on your ballot in the form of nonpartisan elections.
In nonpartisan elections, all candidates compete against each other regardless of party affiliation. These elections are open to all registered voters, including those who have chosen not to designate a political affiliation.
If no candidate receives half of the votes cast in nonpartisan elections, a run-off election will be held between the two candidates receiving the most votes. The run-off elections will be held during the General Election in November.
Nonpartisan Elections in Florida
In Florida, a limited number of offices are designated nonpartisan, including:
School Board Representatives
School board positions are filled on a nonpartisan basis. This year, Pinellas County residents will vote for school board representatives from Districts 2, 3, 6 and 7.
All of these districts have three or more candidates on the ballot. If no candidate receives 50% or more of the vote, the two candidates with the highest votes will compete in a runoff election in November’s General Election.
Most Local and State Judges
Additionally, all judges are initially elected in a nonpartisan format. Circuit Court and County Court judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis for six-year terms. They are subject to reelection after each term. These elections take place at the same time as the primaries and are also open to all registered voters.
Florida Supreme Court Justices and Appeals Court judges are also initially elected in nonpartisan elections. Once elected, they are subject to “retention elections” every six years to decide whether they should continue to serve. These retention elections are held with the General Election, in November.
In addition to school boards and judges, designated special districts may be handled in a nonpartisan fashion. This includes special fire control districts.
Your Vote in Nonpartisan Elections Counts
Historically, turnout for primary nonpartisan elections is very low:
In 2016, only 24% of eligible voters turned out for the primary in the state of Florida, while 75% voted in the General Election.
In 2014, with no presidential primary to drive turn-out, only 15% of eligible voters participated in the primary, while 51% of voters participating in the General Election.
This low turnout means that only a small percentage of voters determined who would fill many critical local roles. These local and judicial positions have a profound impact on day-today life for all of us.
The school board sets educational budgets and priorities and has a long-term impact on the future of our children and the economy of our communities for many years to come.
Judges at all levels impact the quality of life for all of us. It’s important that we all be confident in their impartiality and fairness.
Find the Best Way to Vote for You
You don’t have to wait until the end of August to cast your ballot. You may fill out a vote-by-mail ballot or participate in early voting, which runs from August 18 to 25.
Even if you don’t have a party affiliation, you should still get out and make your voice heard on August 28! The schools, courts, and representatives are counting on you!
Amelia Tait-Kamradt is a retired microbiologist who has recently moved to St. Petersburg and is educating herself in our community.