Early Voting in the Jacksonville Mayoral Runoff — A Look Back at 2011

Early voting is underway in the runoff election for Mayor of the City of Jacksonville.  According to a report by the Florida Times Union, only 4,275 ballots were cast on Monday (yesterday), the first day of early voting, in the 18 early voting sites located across Duval County.

In the 2011 mayoral runoff election, strong turnout by African Americans during the two weeks of early voting helped to tip the scales for Alvin Brown who won his first term as Jacksonville’s mayor.

African Americans in Duval County — even more so than the rest of Florida — have become habituated to vote early. Facing an array of obstacles limiting their ability to cast a vote on a Tuesday—the traditional election day even in municipal elections—or remaining dubious about having their absentee ballots count, thousands of African Americans in Jacksonville have taken advantage of the convenience of voting early, which was enacted by a Republican legislature and signed into law in 2004 by Governor Jeb Bush. In the 2011 Jacksonville municipal election, black voters in Duval County were especially likely to vote on the final Sunday before Election Day, taking their Souls to the Polls.

In 2011, African Americans made up roughly 28% of the registered voters in Duval County (about the same today), with white registered voters comprising about 62% of the county’s voter rolls (today, whites make up about 60% of the county’s electorate).  Jacksonville African Americans, however, were disproportionately more likely to go early to the polls to vote in the 2011 municipal election when compared to other racial or ethnic groups.

Figure 1, below, plots the daily composition (that is, the fraction of early voters on each day that is of a particular race/ethnicity) of the early voting electorate in the 2011 Jacksonville mayoral contest.  It reveals that African Americans relied much more heavily on early voting, Of the approximately 38,000 registered voters in Duval County who voted early over the two-week early voting period prior to Election Day (May 17, 2011), African Americans cast roughly 34% of the early votes, even though they comprised just 28% of the electorate.

Figure 1: Racial and Ethnic Composition (Percentage) of Early Voters in Duval County, May 2011 Mayoral Runoff Election


What is most notable from Figure 1 is the huge spike in early votes by African Americans on the final day of early voting, Sunday, May 15, 2011. In fact, on that final Sunday of early voting, even though they comprised less than a third of registered voters, more African Americans came to the polls to vote in the Jacksonville runoff election than did whites.

Early voting has just started; it runs through May 17.  I suspect we’ll see a surge of early voters — especially African Americans — in the days to come, especially the final Sunday of early voting, Sunday May 17, 2015.

Details about where and when early voting is available can be found on the Duval County Supervisor of Elections website.