Qualifying for candidates seeking local offices kicked off at noon on Monday. Candidates have until noon Friday to file at the Supervisor of Elections Office.
Plenty of seats are up for grabs, including two on the Escambia County Commission; three each on the County School Board and Pensacola City Council, along with the Pensacola mayor’s office. Add to that, Districts One and Two on the Florida House of Representatives, and state Senate District Two.
David Stafford, Escambia County Elections Supervisor, said for local candidates generally, his office is the qualifying office. For state offices, district offices that cross county lines, and legislative seats, the paperwork is submitted to Tallahassee.
“Perhaps one of the reasons that you get so many qualifiers on the first day, is that a couple of year ago the state Legislature allowed for collection of qualifying papers up to two weeks before qualifying begins,” said Stafford.
Submitting the paperwork in advance, says Stafford, enables his office to look through it and make sure it’s complete. If it’s in order, they hold it and when qualifying begins the documents are processed and the candidate is officially qualified.
A few more names are being added to the process this year. The Town of Century last week voted to synch its election calendar with the county and state cycles. On Wednesday a representative of the Supervisor of Elections Office will also be at the Century Town Hall to qualify candidates from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Stafford says generally, there are two different types of candidates who come in to sign up. One is those who have pre-filed or have run before and already have their campaign machine up and running. The others are first-time candidates who must start from scratch.
“First thing they have to do is file that appointment of a campaign treasurer,” Stafford said. “Then go open an account, and come back with the qualifying fee because the deadline has passed.”
After Friday’s deadline the next phase of work begins for Florida’s 67 elections supervisors in the run up to the August 26th primary. Stafford says it’s actually a continuation of efforts, with the programming of the election already underway. Parallel to that, there’s also processing new voter registration, collecting vote-by-mail and absentee applications, and poll worker training.
Stafford says that one of the great unknowns in any election cycle is turnout.
“Primary elections, regardless of a presidential or non-presidential year, tend to get about 25% turnout,” said Stafford. “A lot of people think that that’s unfortunate (but) that’s how we have to look at it and prepare. The general election tends to be somewhere in the mid-40s to the mid-50s, which is vastly different from a presidential election where you’re going to get 75-80%.”
The voter registration deadline for the August 26 primary is July 28. The deadline to register for the general election on November 4, is October 6.