Despite coronavirus fears, more than 100,000 people cast their vote in Tuesday’s presidential preference primary in Charlotte and Sarasota counties.

This brought voter turnout to 19.96% in Charlotte County with 29,034 voters, and 37.27% in Sarasota County with 89,703 voters.

Proportionally, this is lower than previous years, with 2016 having a 49.28% turnout in Charlotte County with 43,379 votes; and a 54.46% voter turnout in Sarasota County with 115,566 votes. In 2012, there was a 43.32% turnout in Charlotte County and 45.54% in Sarasota County, according to their respective elections offices.

Sarasota County had all its precincts reporting at 9:05 p.m. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Charlotte County only had early and vote-by-mail ballots reported due to election day ballots still being processed.

Former Vice President Joe Biden came out as the front-runner in both counties, receiving 57.85% of the Democratic vote in Charlotte County and 61.76% in Sarasota County. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders received 14.56% of the Democratic vote in Charlotte County and 18.38% of the vote in Sarasota County.

President Donald Trump received an overwhelming majority of the Republican vote, with 93.03% in Charlotte County and 92.3% in Sarasota County.

Both the Charlotte County Democrats and the Trump Club of Charlotte County opted out of having watch parties for the election Tuesday per CDC guidelines.

“The enthusiasm is still there despite the craziness,” said Christine Pontoriero, the president of the Trump Club of Charlotte County.

“Florida Democrats are energized and committed to defeating Donald Trump,” said Teresa Jenkins, the chair of the Charlotte County Democrats. With about 216,000 more vote-by-mail and early Democrat voters statewide this year compared to 2016, “Nothing will stop them,” she said.

All Charlotte County poll workers showed up to help on election day as well, according to Charlotte County Supervisor of Elections Paul Stamoulis. Voters commented to the Sun that there was an abundance of poll workers.

Before Tuesday, more than half the states had already held their primaries. Florida voters were joined by Arizona and Illinois voters to cast their ballot for the primary. Meanwhile, Ohio postponed its primary until June 2.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Democratic hopeful Joe Biden had 898 delegates and Bernie Sanders had 745, according to the Associated Press. Other Democratic candidates had 168. Democratic candidates need 1,991 delegates to secure their nomination at the Democratic National Convention.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump so far has received 1,141 delegates, with only one additional delegate going to candidate Bill Weld. Republican candidates need 1,276 delegates to win the nomination.

For 10 years, Dick Napolitano has volunteered as a poll worker in Englewood for the Charlotte County Supervisor of Elections.

Voting is normally light during primaries, but the coronavirus did not stop voters from casting their ballots Tuesday in Englewood, said Napolitano who was stationed outside of the West County annex on San Casa Drive. During early voting, a 100 or more voters a day cast their ballots at the annex and that’s typical.

Pattie and Jim Saracino were among the voters who turned out to vote in the Democratic primary. Since their first choice, Elizabeth Warren, wasn’t in the running, they cast their votes for Joe Biden.

They said they always vote and weren’t going to let the pandemic keep them from casting their ballots.

”We checked to see if (Charlotte voting) was open,” Pattie said. She has a sister in Ohio where the primary was postponed until June 2. She didn’t think that was right.

”This election is central to the future of America,” Pattie said.

Jim added, “The democratic process can’t be stopped by this. People need to continue and move this democracy forward. This democracy is more long-termed than this illness.”

In 2016, Sanders picked up 4,638 votes from Charlotte Democrats and 15,798 from Sarasota County, making up or more than 35% of the Charlotte Democratic votes and 37% of Sarasota Democratic votes.

Florida has 219 total Democratic delegates and 122 Republican delegates.

Voters in U.S. congressional district 17, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R), has four Democratic delegates and three Republican delegates. District 17 encompasses all of Charlotte County, Englewood, North Port, Venice, Arcadia, Wauchula, Sebring, Okeechobee and Babcock Ranch.

Voters represented by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) have six Democratic delegates and three Republican delegates. District 16 includes Sarasota and Bradenton.

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-Englewood Sun staff writer Steve Reilly contributed to this report.


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