South Florida polls running smoothly during Tuesday primary

More than 1.2 million Florida voters return ballots by mail

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than 1.75 million Floridians have already voted in this year's primary.

The Florida Division of Elections on Tuesday released updated figures showing that more than 1.2 million voters have returned their ballots by mail. More than 538,000 voted during the early voting period that ended on Sunday.

The total of those who voted by mail is likely to go up, since ballots returned Tuesday can still be accepted.

Florida appears poised to have a larger turnout than it did during the 2012 primary, when 2.34 million voted.

This year there are more competitive races for both Congress and the Florida Legislature. Voters are also deciding the Democratic and Republican nominees for U.S. Senate.

"(It is) definitely a crazy election year," Broward County voter Saima Chaudhry said.

After a failed presidential run, Sen. Marco Rubio is seeking to secure the Republican nomination for a second term.

Tuesday's primary will also set the stage for several U.S. House races in a year that Democrats are hoping to gain seats in the heavily Republican delegation.

Rubio made a last-minute decision to seek another term and nearly cleared what was a crowded Republican field. But millionaire homebuilder Carlos Beruff stayed in with hopes of toppling Rubio.

Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are battling for the right to face Rubio in November.

South Florida voters are also choosing whether to keep former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Congress or to replace her with Tim Canova, a Bernie Sanders-backed law professor.

In Miami-Dade County, the election's office said the polls were running smoothly Tuesday morning.

All of the precincts opened on time and no major problems were reported. Still, candidates were hoping that rainy weather wouldn't keep people away from the polls.

"The big issue is will people come out and vote with this weather? And I hope they do. I'm here to cast my ballot. It's such an important election," Raquel Regalado, who is hoping to oust Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenenz, said.

Gimenez also voted early Tuesday.

"(I'm) pretty confident, but at the end of the day it's the voters who decide," he said. "At 6:30 I'll start getting butterflies in my stomach just like I did when I used to play basketball in high school or college."

While much attention has been on the presidential race, several important local races will be decided Tuesday as well, some of which voters in South Florida are paying special attention to.

"A lot of the attention is paid to the larger races, but the primaries and judge and everything that is done at the local levels is influenced by these elections, so if you care about how your community is run then it's important to get out in all elections, not just the big ones," Miami-Dade voter Ed Boland said.

"I'm interested in what's going to happen in the Democratic Senate primary. There's so many candidates -- not really sure how it's going to go," Miami-Dade voter Martha Schoolman said.

Thirteen percent of voters in Miami-Dade County voted ahead of Tuesday by way of absentee ballot or during early voting.

"I always vote," Boland said. "I like to complain a lot about public services, and I feel if you don't vote then you don't really have a right to complain."

Broward County also reported minimal issues, although a woman who voted at the Saint Bernard Catholic Church in Sunrise said there were scanner issues at the precinct and that some frustrated voters walked out without casting their ballots.

More than 70,000 voters in Broward County mailed their ballots in ahead of Tuesday, according to the Supervisor of Election's Office.

The polls will remain open until 7 p.m.


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