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CHIPLEY - Although midterm voter turnout is usually significantly lower than major election years, the local county District 4 race and the statewide gubernatorial race could be the reason why early voting in Washington County has gone up.

"The turn out for early voting has been higher than we anticipated," said Supervisor of Elections Carol Finch Rudd "It's that way statewide."

"It seems this governor's elections has really peak some interest in our voters," she added, noting the local race between incumbent Todd Abbott and contender Wesley Griffin has also helped voter turnout.

As voters flock to the polls to decide between Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D) for Florida governor, Abbott and Griffin will vie for the only county seat up for election in this voting cycle.

Abbott runs a campaign based on his track record of tax regulation and ability to see a greater future for the county.

"My goal is always to reduce taxes and it has been to get our county out of debt and we've come along way with that," Abbott said. "I'm an advocate of reducing taxes and we either reduce and left the same every year and I will continue to do so."

Abbott went on to list other Washington County Board of County Commissioners accomplishments while he has held the seat, including, securing funds and multi-level governmental agreements for infrastructure along the interstates and new funding set aside for an agricultural/civic center.

"When you bring the infrastructure in, you bring the businesses in - which is the people - and it's going to increase your tax revenue," he said. "I want to help our businesses thrive, to grow."

Abbott also went on to talk about the community's response to the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, saying there was no way the county could have done it alone.

"It has been a tough time for all of us," he said, listing needs such as electricity, ice and water, to those who were medically in need and people cutting back trees to free people from their homes. "There's no way the county could have done all that by itself. It's been heartwarming to see our county come together as one."

"This is a place that I choose to live," he concluded. "This is my father's home, my grandfather's home, my children's home - and I just want to see if thrive."

After repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach Griffin, he did not respond for comment by the time of press Friday morning.


Voter turnout

On Election Day the SOE office expects to see 46-percent of Washington County voters cast their ballots at the polls, which is about double turnout of that of early and absentee.

Despite the destruction caused  by the storm in Gulf and Franklin counties, as of Wednesday, early and absentee was at 25 percent, respectively.

"We were at 19 - that's fantastic," "That tells you something about the resilience of the people."

Vote-by-mail has gone down, however, the SOE office mailed out 2,500 ballots prior to the storm and has received a "steady" stream of them in return. Also, Judd said the county SOE offices are working together to help individuals from other counties displaced by the hurricane to submit vote-by-mail ballots.

"We have a lot of people who their lives have been disrupted, so I'm thankful that they still are taking focus and exercising this right that they got seriously," Judd said.

The storm is the reason the SOE set up four mega sites, at which any registered Washington County voter can cast his or her ballot.

At the time when the decision had to be made for adjustments to polling, several municipalities were without power. While some voters has taken advantage of early voting as a way to bypass going to a mega site, others are frustrated.

"We ask people to be patient with us - it's just temporary," Judd said. "We don't want to inconvenience anyone, but we ask them to just be patient with us through this cycle.

And, in a way, Hurricane Michael has added positive pressure to the democratic process.

"Some people see it as the one thing consistent - we can go early vote - and for the minute focus on something other than their devastation," Judd said. "Our voters are thankful for the right they have and those who are will go out and vote no matter where they are."

Make sure you bring your photo with signature identification. If you have lost your ID as a result of the storm, the SOE can make a provisional ballot.

For more information about Election Day and voting, go to wcsoe.org or call 850-638-6230.