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Traffic was slow at precincts as Republicans in many counties really only had one choice

Red arrow shaped sign with white letters reads "Vote." Green grass and a cracked sidewalk surround the sign with a row of homes in the background.
Meghan Bowman
The polling site at Fowler Avenue Baptist Church in Hillsborough County saw just one voter in the early hours of Tuesday's Presidential Primary. Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer says a low in-person turnout was expected, but nearly 50,000 people voted early or by mail.

There were more poll workers than voters early Tuesday at some precincts in Pasco and Hillsborough counties. This Florida Presidential Preference Primary Election was different than years past — for many voters, only one candidate was on the ballot.

Fowler Avenue Baptist Church in Tampa had just one voter cast a ballot in the presidential preference primary by around noon on Tuesday.

Wiregrass Ranch Sports Complex in Wesley Chapel only saw about 10 people earlier in the day.

Other polling locations in Lutz and Land O'Lakes saw very little traffic in the early hours.

While some counties — like Pinellas — held municipal elections, there wasn't much on the ballot to bring voters out in others. Democrats cancelled their state presidential primaries leaving only Republicans eligible to place a vote.

And though several Republican presidential candidates are still on the ballot in Florida, only one is still in the race — former President Donald Trump.

"You've got to remember that a lot of the candidates that are on there suspended their campaign, even though they're still on the ballot," Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said.

That's because Florida's deadline to formally withdraw from the race in writing was Dec. 12, and at that time both Nikki Haley and Gov. Ron DeSantis were still in the race.

By around noon on Tuesday, just over 19% of Hillsborough's Republicans had cast a ballot. That includes more than 12,000 people who voted early and over 36,000 ballots returned by mail.

As of 2 p.m. in Pasco County, just over 15% of eligible voters cast a ballot, including about 12,000 who voted by mail and about 5,500 who voted early.

"A lot of folks are wondering basically, 'Why vote?' Because it's already over in their minds politically," Pasco's Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said. "So that's clearly correlating to a lower turnout today, than would be expected if there was a contested primary."

With only one viable candidate on the ballot, Corley said he understands why people might not be as "enthusiastic" to get out and vote.

"But it's still important to come out and have your voice heard either way, if you're eligible," he said.

In 2020, Florida saw 30% of eligible voters take part in the presidential primary. In 2016, turnout was 46%.

But this year differs from those — there's no Democrat and only one viable Republican candidate on the ballot.

Here's a county-by-county breakdown of how the greater Tampa Bay region voted:


Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.