Voting in a pandemic

People come and go during primary Election Day voting Tuesday at Rohan Recreation Center.

Kim Bosques wasn’t going to let virus fears deter her from voting on Election Day.

“I’ve got my trusty hand sanitizer,” said Bosques, of the Village of Mira Mesa, shaking a bottle clipped to her bag as she stood in the sunny parking lot of La Hacienda Recreation Center.

Bosques said she and her husband were the only voters at the polling place when they voted around 2:30 p.m.

Bosques, who voted for former Vice President Joe Biden, said she loved Barack Obama as a president and hopes voting for Biden could mean a continuation of his legacy.

And the former vice president pulled out the win.

With 29 electoral votes — tied for third-most overall — Florida is a crucial battleground state that could help seal the nomination for Biden.

Weeks ago, local officials were predicting more voters at the polls than in previous presidential preference primaries. However, against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, counties across the state saw turnout lower than in 2016.

The threat of the virus suspended Get Out The Vote efforts, forced some election supervisors to scramble for replacement poll workers and required dozens of polling places to shift to new locations at the last minute.

Going into this week, Sumter County Supervisor of Elections Bill Keen expected turnout to be lower because of virus fears, but he was pleasantly surprised.

For the 2016 presidential preference primary, the county had the state’s best turnout of 63%.

This year, he said, “We’re gonna finish right at 44%. We were expecting more in the 30s. It should hold us for No. 1 in the state, but that isn’t confirmed yet.”

Keen said it was definitely a slower day than usual, but he was “very fortunate that we were able to staff all our polling locations.”

In Lake County, the sentiment was similar.

The day went well, said Alan Hays, Lake County Supervisor of Elections.

“We had excellent cooperation from voters,” he said. “We had outstanding performance from our election workers. Everybody was very patient. Everybody was very understanding. It made you proud to be an American – and a Lake Countian.”

Marion County saw about half the turnout it did in 2016.

Back in The Villages, Dianne Knight and Jane Eckerl, of Village El Cortez, went to vote for President Donald Trump together. Knight said she’d never voted so fast at the polling location.

Knight said she wasn’t deterred from voting by coronavirus fears and that she’d even gone out to breakfast that morning.

Some other voters of the day were a little more cautious.

Democrat Linda Goldsmith, also of Village El Cortez, wore a face mask to the polls, though she said she had difficulty getting it to stay on. She also used a disinfectant wipe when handling the pen she used to cast her ballot for Biden. A few other voters throughout the day wore gloves, masks or both to the polls.

However, Goldsmith felt it was her duty to vote.

“This is a very challenging time in our history,” she said. “I couldn’t not vote.”

Staff writer Alexandria Mansfield can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5401, or alexandria.mansfield@thevillagesmedia.com.