At some precincts in Jacksonville, the rustling leaves made more noise than the electorate on election day, as about 3-in-4 registered voters chose not to participate in the March 2023 city elections.
Amanda Roesler was one of the 168,197 who did, representing just 25.6% of registered voters.
She pedaled up to her Arlington precinct, committed to be more active and engaged.
“After the last couple elections, I’ve really wanted to prioritize the local elections,” Roesler says. “It’s where we see the most effect of our voting. So, I really thought that it’s best that I show out today.”
Roesler’s precinct had the lowest early voting turnout in Duval County: 4.63%. By the end of Tuesday, just 9.9% of voters in the precinct cast ballots.
A poll worker told Jacksonville Today that some voters were unsure whether they were at the correct precinct or they were supposed to be at Precinct 405, which was about 1,000 feet away, across Atlantic Boulevard.
That precinct had a 17.5% turnout.
Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said early on Tuesday he expected turnout to hit between 30 and 35%. That didn’t happen.
“As I study this thing, as it’s as it’s been morphing through the day, I think what I’m really seeing is that there are a lot of new candidates on this ballot,” Hogan said. “And the voters don’t know them, and I think they have been slow to figure out who they are. And that’s my guess.”
DeAngelo Smith had not voted before, but did so on Tuesday because his mother was supporting City Council candidate Tameka Gaines Holly and encouraged him to get engaged. Smith, who turned 21 on Monday, says he decided who he supported on Tuesday.
“I never did anything like this. It’s kind of new,” Smith said. “It’s fun. I’m nervous.”
Jacksonville Today visited five polling locations throughout the city checking the temperature of the electorate. While some knew the candidates well, it was a commitment to civic duty and playing a small part in American democracy that drew most people to the polls on Tuesday.
Carter Jones voted early. He wore a backward hat supporting Council Member Randy White while holding a sign supporting Council Member Ron Salem. Jones, 22, says turnout among Gen Z is paramount because municipal elections are often decided by voters over 60.
Donald Davis, who is not related to Republican mayoral candidate Daniel Davis, says he is a consistent voter.
“You don’t have a voice if you don’t go out and vote,” says Davis who voted at an Oceanway precinct that had the lowest turnout in the city in November. “You can’t say it’s not your fault.”
Redistricting meant Tuesday was Kelly Medders’ first time voting at Pecan Park Baptist Church.
“To be honest, I think it’s a little disturbing and a little disappointing that the turnout would be this low in this precinct,” says Medders, who has lived in Jacksonville since 2005. “My wife and I have recently moved into the area, but I will be a face that (people) will see here consistently.”
Medders, like Roesler, says he looked up candidates’ voting records and their positions when determining who earned his vote. In a mayoral election where more than $7 million was spent, Medders says he was turned off by the all the negative advertisements.
“I went and looked up their voting records,” Medders says. “I came in with a sample ballot that I had already investigated, marked and I knew who I was gonna vote for when I got here.”
Kyber Peluso can’t vote. But, if he could, his uncle would have undoubtedly received his support. Jimmy Peluso advanced to May’s runoff for City Council District 7. The older Peluso will face Republican Joseph Hogan, son of Election Supervisor Mike Hogan, in the May runoff.
Kyber was one of nearly a half dozen members of his family holding signs and waving to voters at Grace Church of Avondale. He is a high school student in South Florida who says supporting his uncle in democratic process has been a real-life complement to his history and civics classes.
“I want to encourage everybody that I know to go out and vote when they can, because that’s so important. Turnout, turnout, turnout for all parties. It’s a citizen’s duty to vote. And that is very important,” Kyber says. “…It’s important to research who’s on your ballot and be an informed voter. You want to be an informed voter.”