Early voting has kicked off, and the reaction as to participation is mixed.
Fewer than 2,000 eligible voters had gone to the polls as of Thursday for the Cape Coral mayoral and district elections, with even fewer mail ballots returned, according to statistics provided by the Lee County Supervisor of Elections office.
As of Thursday, 1,993 voters had gone to the polls for early voting, and of the 2,823 mail ballots that were sent by Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline, 1,655 had been returned.
City Clerk Rebecca Van Duetekom said she wishes the early voting numbers were better.
"I would encourage people to vote early. I would always like to see the numbers higher, even if we have to get them to vote early," Van Duetekom said. "That way you don't have the problems that arise on Election Day."
Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington was not available for direct comment, but said in a text that "everything seems to be doing well, and the turnout has been good, too."
Van Duetekom said it would be almost impossible to get everyone to vote early since for many going to the polls on Election Day is a ritual.
There are 102,971 registered voters in Cape Coral, with 4,478 others declared inactive, meaning they haven't cast a ballot in the last two elections.
If they cast a ballot or respond to the Office of Elections request for an address, they become active again. If they don't respond and don't vote for the next 741 days (two years), they are purged from the voter rolls.
Participation at the polls has been low, both for the primary on Sept. 10 and the last municipal election.
The primary on Sept. 10 brought out fewer than 8 percent of registered voters, even lower than the 2011 primary, when about 11.5 percent took part.
The 2011 general election drew around 15 percent of registered voters.
Area businesses are ofering discounts for those who enter their establishments on Election Day with their "I voted" sticker on.
Early voting will be held until Saturday at the Lee County Elections Main Office at 2480 Thompson St., 3rd Floor in Fort Myers, and at the Cape Coral Branch Office at 1031 SE 9th Place, No. 3.
Voting hours Friday are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Election Day, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters should report to their precincts. If you don't know your precinct or voting place, you can go online to leeelections.com to find it by typing in your address.
Citizens can vote for any candidate in any district. The elections are non-partisan.
Marni Sawicki and incumbent John Sullivan are running for the mayor's seat. David Headd and Jim Burch are running for for Marty McClain's seat in District 1. Incumbent Chris Chulakes-Leetz faces a challenge from Richard Leon in District 4, while incumbent Kevin McGrail faces Rick Williams in District 6.
Van Duetekom said she hopes for good turnout Tuesday, although she's discouraged when you look at the percentages.
"You can't make them vote, although I wish I could. I'd be beating down the streets if I could," Van Duetekom said. "We need to get people engaged."