• Early voting for primary kicks off in Florida amid changing demographics that could tip the scales

    By: Kevin Williams , Q McCray

    Updated:

    CENTRAL FLORIDA - Early voting ahead of Florida's primary election is underway.

    Friday marks the first day of early voting for Orange and Osceola counties. Early voting started in Lake County on Thursday, and eighteen other counties in the state started Monday.

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    Florida's primary is Aug. 28.

    In Central Florida, the first day of primary voting varies by county:

    • Brevard County: Starts Saturday, Aug. 18
    • Flagler County: Starts Saturday, Aug. 18
    • Lake County: Starts Thursday, Aug. 16
    • Marion County: Starts Saturday, Aug. 18
    • Orange County: Starts Friday, Aug. 17
    • Osceola County: Starts Friday, Aug. 17
    • Polk County: Starts Saturday, Aug. 18
    • Seminole County: Starts Saturday, Aug. 18
    • Sumter County: Starts Saturday, Aug. 18
    • Volusia County: Starts Saturday, Aug. 18
       

    The top races are the gubernatorial primaries. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessmen Jeff Greene and Chris King are the Democratic candidates. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are the Republicans. There are also Cabinet primaries.

    Election Checklist: Florida's major races & the candidates running

    Early voting must begin 10 days before election day, but counties can add extra days. Polls must be open at least eight hours daily.

    Mail-in voting has already begun. The state said Monday more than 571,000 votes have been cast.

    More Latino voters are expected to vote in this year's primary thanks to the thousands of Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria who have been living in Central Florida.

    There are now more than 100,000 Hispanic voters in Osceola County: Almost half of the 212,000 registered.

    "Latino Advocacy groups have been leading a push to register as many Hispanic voters as possible," said Mary Jane Arrington, supervisor of elections for Osceola County. 

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    Experts believe more young voters will take part in Florida’s primary elections than in previous years after February’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. inspired a nationwide movement among young people to vote for candidates who will change gun laws.

    “Almost 25 percent of our voters are under 30,” said Arrington, adding many of the young voters have no party affiliation.

    Florida's primaries are closed, which means in most major races, voters can only cast a ballot for the party in which they are registered.

    The deadline to register to vote by the August primary has already passed, but it is not too late to register in time for the November election.

    Let your voice be heard! How to register to vote in Florida

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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