POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Florida county that is very important to both Trump and Clinton is Polk County. It is right in the heart of the I-4 corridor, where both candidates campaigned heavily prior to the election.
“Polk County is a red county, but it has two big blotches in it that are blue. So as a county, it’s a tremendously diverse county,” said Florida Southern Political Science Professor Dr. Bruce Anderson. “Polk is the political vortex. We are in the center of the I-4 corridor. The way that Polk goes is the way that the I-4 corridor will go, and the way that the I-4 corridor will go, is the way that Florida will go.”
Polk is truly a purple county. It is split three ways among registered Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Historically, voters have skewed toward the Republican Party. In fact, the last time Polk County leaned toward a Democratic presidential candidate was nearly 40 years ago, Jimmy Carter in 1977.
It is important to note that in recent years Republican candidates won in Polk County by an average of only 5 percent, making Polk a must watch.
“In Polk County we are very evenly divided we have 37 percent Democrats, 36 percent Republicans and 26 percent are affiliated with a minor party,” Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said. “We are truly unpredictable on the I-4 corridor.”
As the polls opened at 7 a.m. dozens of voters lined up at Precinct 231 at the First Alliance Church in Lakeland, ready to make their vote count.
Pete Palmer of Lakeland said he voted defensively. “For the last, probably three or four elections, it seems like I vote against the person I really don’t like, or dislike the most. This year I think it’s unprecedented. In most people’s minds, just the campaigns that were run, how negative everything was. I’m just glad to have it over with.”
Problems at the polls
8 on Your Side is monitoring the polls for any issues. As of Tuesday afternoon, nothing had been reported in Polk County, according to Supervisor of Elections Community Services Director P.J. Leiva.
Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards told 8 On Your Side she is working hard to make sure there are not any issues.
“1,700 people are working hard to protect your right to vote,” she said. “Since the beginning of time we will have mistakes here and there at polling locations, and I can’t in good conscience tell you that 1,700 people who woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning, none of them will make a mistake all day. But, what I can assure you is that there won’t be any coordinated fraud, and that any time something goes wrong, it will be addressed immediately by your elections office.”
In August, a Polk County Polling Clerk was fired after an issue at the polls. According to Leiva, A voter went to Precinct 216, located on South Lakeside Avenue, looking to vote Independent. The voter was told she couldn’t vote because they didn’t have the correct ballots. After an argument and a search, the voter was given the correct ballot and she was able to vote.
The worker, who we’re told has been employed for a number of years, was fired shortly after the incident.
Back in March, a similar incident happened, when a Polk County couple was nearly turned away when they tried to vote.
“We would have been turned away if we weren’t forceful about it,” said Theresa Wibert, who contacted News Channel 8 about the incident. When Wilbert showed up to her registered polling location, Precinct 321, she was handed a ballot with only the names of Republican candidates.
A woman who was in charge told Wilbert that it was a closed Republican primary, not for Democrats.
“Not one person sitting at that table questioned the fact that there was (sic) no Democrat ballots on the table,” Wibert explained. “We pushed it a little further and the lady called a few people. Finally, she looked in the bottom of a closet and found a box with the Democratic ballots. Then they fixed it. So, we were able to vote for our candidate.”
At that time, Edwards said “The worker was counseled. But, the truth is, no voters were turned away. It was a mistake. It was an unfortunate mistake and it got corrected immediately.”
- 2016 General Election Voter Guide
- Find your polling place to vote on Election Day
- Election Day freebies and deals