DORAL, FLA. (WSVN) - It is officially election season in South Florida.
More than 20 polling locations opened Monday morning so people living in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties can voice their choice in Florida’s primary election.
It was a slow start as the polls opened in Doral at 7 a.m., but key races have been heating up throughout South Florida.
“I wanted to make sure I got my vote in,” said Pat George, “make sure it counted, and I always vote, and I just wanted to be here on the first day.”
The Miami-Dade Elections Department tested its voting equipment last week as part of their preparation for the voting season.
They opened machines, transmitted results and inputted mail-in or absentee votes.
“Voting has never been easier. Everybody needs to be taking advantage of it,” said Miami-Dade Supervisor of elections, Christina White, “and your local elections are the most important ones, and it’s certainly unfortunate that we have over 70% turn out in a presidential, and we may have something like 20% to 25% in a primary. These are important elections. Everybody should be coming out in large numbers.”
Florida voters have many ways to be able to cast their ballots, including voting by mail and in person during early voting or on election day.
People gathered at New Birth Baptist Church for a voter kickoff event Monday evening.
“I have younger siblings, and I want to be able to make a difference and show them something I did even as small as voting made a difference in their futures,” said Kiyona Jackson.
Various community leaders organized the event. including Faith in Florida.
“Our lives are at stake here in Florida,” said Executive Director of Faith in Florida Rhonda Thomas, “especially black and brown people. The maps that was drawn is very discouraging. It’s so important. Organizations such as ours do all we can to get people out to vote.”
Campaigns have also been in effect for months now, as candidates running in the upcoming election encourage voters to vote.
Among the highly-anticipated races on the ballot is the Democratic primary for governor. U.S. Rep. and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and current Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried are the two Democratic front-runners on the ballot.
Whoever wins that race would take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November’s midterm elections.
“I’m very disappointed in the current leadership in Florida,” said Crist. “I feel like Governor DeSantis is tearing our state apart. He cares more about the White House than he does our house.”
“He is not focusing on the day to day issues impacting the people in our state, like affordability, housing, the environment, and I just couldn’t sit back,” said Fried. “That the people of our state are tired of the radicalization of the Republican party.”
Four Democrats are also facing off in the primaries to try to unseat Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, Rep. Carlos Giménez and Dem. Frederica Wilson are hoping to hold onto their seats in office in Miami-Dade.
Early voting in Broward County starts next week featuring a congressional seat rematch in District 20 between incumbent congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and former Broward County commissioner Dale Holness.
In the last election, the congresswoman beat Holness by five votes.
Miami-Dade Deputy Supervisor of Elections Suzy Trutie shared new information on voting this election season.
“Now, when you are requesting a vote-by-mail ballot, you must give additional personal information. For example, you must give the last four digits of your Social Security or you must give your driver’s license number,” she said.
Officials said the early voter turnout for the first day of the primary election in Miami-Dade County was low.
“The best thing about early voting is that you can get out to any one of the 23 early voting locations throughout all of Miami-Dade County,” said White, “there are early hours, late hours, weekend hours. It really couldn’t be any easier.”
Organizations like Faith in Florida said they plan to work nonstop to get people to the polls.
“We’re being very intentional by talking to as many people as possible, especially our millennials and our Gen Z. Young people, we need their voices,” said Thomas.
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