Are you registered to Vote? Destin pairs municipal votes alongside presidential primary

Savannah Vasquez

With 13 candidates running for elected office in Destin, the big question ahead of the March 15 election is how many people will turn out to cast a ballot?

Given the possibility of five new faces on the dais, there is a possibility those representing the city see a dramatic change.

The Log reached out to the Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux to run the numbers and find out what Destin’s historic interest in municipal elections has been and what influences local voter turnout.

Lux said that historically, Destin’s municipal elections tend to yield 10 to 15 percent of registered voters actively placing a ballot, however that number jumps to about 40 percent during a presidential primary year.

“The turnout in presidential preference primary years are decidedly higher than years where the election stands alone,” Lux said. “City of Destin elections have fluctuated between 12.4 percent and 24.9 percent in recent years; driven, as I said, mainly by how engaged the electorate becomes.”

This year looks promising for local turnout then as Lux noted it involves candidates from both major parties running in the presidential primary.

“The municipal turnouts are historically lower, but the presidential preference primary really does vary from year to year,” he said. “In an open year like this year, with both Republican and Democratic candidates coming to the polls, there are obviously way more people voting. A lot of times it’s issue driven and a lot of times it’s candidate driven; quite often it’s just that people get excited about candidate they want to vote for.”

Lux stressed that although voters must be affiliated with a political party to vote in the presidential primary, municipal voting is open to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation.

“Municipal votes are non-partisan,” he said. “You have until the 16th of February to change your political party if you do want to vote in the presidential preference primary.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of Destin was 12,305 at the last official count in 2010. Destin currently has 10,173 registered voters: 6,251 Republican, 1,494 Democrat and 2,428 identify as Other.

Of the 13 candidates in Destin, two are running for the mayoral seat vacated by Mel Ponder and the 11 others for seats on the council. Ponder resigned to run for a seat on the House of Representatives.

Former Mayor Sam Seevers, who will serve as interim mayor until the March elections, said she hopes this year brings out a good number of voters as she has always advocated for residents to vote in local elections.

“Historically for me, I’ve always encouraged people to get involved not just in voting, but also getting involved in the community they live in,” she said. “That way you are supporting not only the candidate with your vote, but you are also supporting the city you live in, the county, and the state. Sometimes it’s not exercised by the majority, which is a sad thing, but I’ve always encouraged people to exercise their right to vote.”

When asked what qualities she believes are important for a mayoral candidate in Destin, Seevers said it all reflects back on their involvement in the local community.

“The most important thing for me is the Mayor represents the council and whatever the council votes on the Mayor represents that in the community,” she said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be the mayor and I feel that that person must have at least contributed in some way to the community; volunteer their time in various facets and being a part of the community and understanding the history that’s what’s important in a mayor in my mind.”

As for the city's varying voter turnout, , Lux said for our area he can only pin down one common factor.

“We have a lot of military voters that live here,” he said. “Since they are not from here, they stay away from local elections because they feel like they don’t know or want to be involved in local politics.”

Looking back over the past 12 years, the numbers reflect that Destin actually rates about four points higher than most other municipalities averaging an 18.1 percent turnout for municipal voting.

For more information about the upcoming municipal elections, visit the Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections website at

City of Destin municipal election voter turnouts:

2004*    Municipal races uncontested

2006     24.9 percent

2008*    44.1 percent

2010     12.4 percent

2012*    31.8 percent

2014     17.1 percent

* Presidential Preference Primary years.

Destin Municipal and Presidential Preference Primary Vote will be held on March 15.

Destin Precincts and voting locations are as follows:

Precinct 35, North Destin: Destin United Methodist Church at 200 Beach Drive.

Precinct 44, Central Destin: Destin United Methodist Church at 200 Beach Drive.

Precinct 49, East Destin: Destin City Hall Annex 4100 Indian Bayou Drive. (Note: In this precinct party affiliations must be declared by Feb. 16 or there will be no ballot prepared for local voting.)

Precinct 50, South Destin: Destin City Hall Annex 4100 Indian Bayou Drive.

Destin Voting Details