MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Voters in Miami-Dade County are heading to the polls early to cast their ballots in the Florida primary election.
“My grandparents and father died. They fought for the right to vote. It’s critical, absolutely critical everybody should get out and vote,” said Cheryl Andrews who was one of the first to vote in Coral Gables. “Florida is going to be key and we need to take the Senate back and House back and White House of course.”
In Miami-Dade, some 50,000 people voted early. And by midday, 130,000 had voted by mail.
“Voters have been coming in slow and steady,” said Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Christina White. “We are looking for about a 20 percent voter turnout, which is on the high end for Miami-Dade in a primary.”
The high profile race in Miami-Dade is the contest for mayor. Mayor Carlos Gimenez voted at a precinct on Lejeune road near his home, he admitted to having some butterflies.
Gimenez said if re-elected he will continue to create jobs and work to help people get around.
“My vision is economic development, jobs for everybody,” Gimenez said. “Obviously we need to do something about transportation, improving transit.”
Challenger Raquel Regalado voted at the Coral Park Community Center, conceding it’s been an uphill battle against Gimenez.
“It hasn’t been easy, not only because he’s an incumbent, but he’s also spent over six million dollars. This has been the most expensive campaign in Miami-Dade,” Regalado said.
Also in the race is Alfred Santamaria.
It was local politics that brought many to the polls.
“I always vote. I like to complain about public services,” said voter Ed Boland. “I feel if you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain.”
Another high-profile race involves Marco Rubio who lost out to Donald Trump in the Florida Republican presidential primary. He then decided to jump back into the race to keep his U.S. Senate seat. Rubio is facing Carlos Beruff, a Central Florida developer with roots in Miami-Dade County.
Florida Democrats looking to oust Rubio will be voting for Central Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, Patrick Murphy, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Pam Keith or Reginald Luster.
On Miami Beach, the writing was on the wall – or an electronic sign board. Because of Zika concerns, the precinct at the Miami Botanical Gardens, where mosquitoes can gather, was locked with signs explaining the polling place was closed.
A security guard told voters to go to an alternate polling place at Miami Beach city hall.
Many voters braved rain that came and went during the day.
“It went very well. Obviously a light turnout on this rainy Tuesday morning, but they’re very organized and they did a fantastic job,” said voter Al Garcia after casting his ballot in Miami.
Florida is a closed Primary State, which means that only voters who are registered members of a political party may vote for their respective party’s candidates in the primary election. There are a number of non-partisan races that voters will be able to vote in, regardless of party affiliation.
The polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. Those who want to vote must go to their assigned precinct polling station.
Voters will need to bring a valid ID that has their name, a photograph, and a signature. Acceptable forms of ID include: Florida Driver License, Florida Identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, United States Passport, Debit or Credit Card, Military Identification, Student Identification, Retirement Center Identification, Public Assistance Identification, Neighborhood Association Identification, Florida concealed-weapon license, Veteran Health Identification Card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or government-issued employee identification. While the current Voter Information Card is not required to vote, it can help expedite the check-in process, so bringing it is always encouraged.
In Miami-Dade, the Mayoral race has drawn a lot of attention as incumbent Carlos Gimenez is battling Raquel Regalado, a county school board member, a lawyer and the daughter of Tomas Regalado, the current mayor of Miami. Also in the race is Alfred Santamaria.
This primary comes the day after an FBI alert, issued on August 18th, revealed elections offices in every state were warned of hackers trying to compromise voter registration information.
In Miami-Dade, officials say there are redundant, virus-proof and hacker-proof firewalls.
“There have been no signs of compromise in Miami-Dade election systems, nor will there be,” said White.
In Palm Beach County, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher told WPEC/CBS12 News that hackers attempt to violate her systems “every day.” Bucher said her firewalls have kept the cyber thieves from being successful.
The Associated Press, citing unnamed sources, reported that federal officials are increasingly concerned about “foreign” hackers stealing voter information, including driver’s license numbers, dates of births and social security numbers.
Many registered voters in the state have already cast their ballots. So far, Miami-Dade has seen an increase (about 27 percent) in voter turnout.
Click here for more information on voting in Miami-Dade County.