Iowa caucuses could affect Florida's primary

Posted at 4:59 PM, Feb 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-01 17:28:41-05

Iowa is getting all the attention, but some Floridians are casting ballots before the Hawkeye State even caucuses.

As of Monday morning, for instance, the Pinellas County supervisor of elections had already received several absentee ballots.

But candidates getting votes Monday might not even be running for president by the time Florida's primaries actually roll around. Several candidates who don't succeed in Iowa on Monday night, and New Hampshire next week, could be packing their bags early.

It's the way it works in America right now, even if, according to some political experts, it doesn't make much sense.

"They’re two of the most unrepresentative states in the country [Iowa and New Hampshire] and the problem is no political candidate can come out and say this is a stupid way to select a president," says Dr. Darryl Paulson, a former USF professor of elections and political parties.

He thinks Iowa in particular tends to vote for what he calls "extreme candidates."

However, he said he doesn't think he's just rooting for the home team when he names the state he thinks should lead off the election process: Florida.

"If you’ve had one state that should lead off the process, I can’t think of anybody better than the state of Florida. It's a mirror image of the nation, in terms of representation," said Paulson, a registered Republican. "I mean its black population almost exactly mirrors the national population, its Hispanic population mirrors the national Hispanic population. It looks like the United States."

It's also, he points out, the only "mega-state," as he calls it, that's a swing state. New York, California and Texas, the other three biggest states in the country, almost always vote the same way every time. Florida, on the other hand, would be a good state to spend all that political money on.

For now though, Florida waits until March 15, but there's another important deadline coming up even sooner: Feb. 16 is the deadline to register to vote in the primaries here.

"There's nothing that's more painful than to see someone who didn’t realize that deadline. But the law is the law, there are no exceptions to the rule," Pinellas County Deputy Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus said.

Also important to note: Florida has a "closed primary," meaning only people registered for a political party can vote for that party. Independents and "non-affiliated" voters will not be getting a say during the primary process. But they can change their status, and update their information in time to take part, by that Feb. 16 deadline.

Learn more about the deadlines and how to see if you're properly registered in Pinellas County by going here: Each county will have their own Supervisor of Elections website.