UF political science professor available to talk about Florida election

October 29, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A University of Florida political science professor expects Florida voters might be frustrated by the lack of early voting opportunities for the fall election compared with previous elections.

Daniel Smith said some counties have expanded opportunities for in-person early voting, but most have cut back.

“Several counties actually reduce the number of days and even the number of total hours of early voting compared to 2010,” he said, “and that can be a concern in terms of access to the polls for people who can’t vote on traditional Election Day or who are wary of voting an absentee ballot.”

Smith said it’s reasonable for people to be uncertain about absentee ballots because they might not be counted.

In the 2012 election, minorities and younger voters suffered higher rejection rates of absentee ballots cast than white and middle-aged voters. Smith also said people who don’t affiliate with a party have higher rejection rates than Democrats or Republicans. Voters sometimes forget to sign their absentee ballot envelopes or sign a name not matching their official voter file.

Smith said with the controversial and highly salient ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana, Amendment 2, there could be an increase in voters who don’t normally vote in a midterm election.

“There’s a good chance we’re going to see supporters of medical marijuana who may not be as politically engaged or aligned with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party come out to vote in support of Amendment 2,” he said.

However, Smith said it’s uncertain if the voters who support Amendment 2 will also support one of the major-party candidates. Libertarian Party candidate Adrian Wyllie is in favor of not only medical marijuana but also the legalization of marijuana.

“It’s going to be interesting to see if there will be any ‘spillover’ support for Charlie Crist, who supports the legalization of medical marijuana, or whether or not these peripheral voters may just skip the top-of-the-ticket gubernatorial race or vote for the third-party candidate,” he said.

Smith’s expertise lies in looking at institutional factors affecting elections, such as early voting, absentee ballots, and ballot measures.

He is available for interviews and can be reached at 352-273-2346 or dasmith@ufl.edu.