There's a rare occurrence in Miami-Dade politics happening Tuesday: an election to fill an open seat on the County Commission.
Bruno Barreiro resigned his District 5 seat March 31 to run for Congress, and the remaining commissioners voted to hold a special election to replace him. Early voting has been under way for about a week, but Election Day is Tuesday, May 22. Four candidates are running: Zoraida Barreiro, the ex-commissioner's wife; Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a former state senator; Carlos Garin, a television actor; and Eileen Higgins, a marketing executive.
Small, one-off elections like these can be particularly confusing because only a tiny slice of the electorate votes. District 5 has about 95,000 registered voters, roughly 7 percent of the county's voter total. The consequences could be significant: The winner will finish out Barreiro's remaining two years on the 13-seat commission and be well positioned to run for an additional two terms on a board where incumbents rarely lose.
Here are some things to know for Election Day:
1. Am I in District 5?
If you live in Miami or Miami Beach, you might be. The district starts in the West Flagler area of Miami, runs through Little Havana and the Roads area, touching parts of Brickell and downtown before stretching across Biscayne Bay to envelop the harbor islands, all of South Beach, and parts of coastal Miami Beach to Normandy Drive.
2. Who can vote?
Any registered voter in District 5. All candidates are running in the same election for the nonpartisan commission seat.
3. When can I vote?
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
4. Where do I vote?
Probably where you voted on the last Election Day. There are 34 polling places in District 5 for the special election. For a list of locations, click here.
5. The person with the most votes wins?
Not necessarily. If one of the candidates takes more than 50 percent of the vote, that person wins the election. If not, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff election scheduled for Tuesday, June 19.
6. How unusual is a special election for the County Commission?
It's pretty unusual. There were two special elections in 2011 to fill commission seats: District 13, to replace Natacha Seijas, who was ousted in a recall vote that year; and District 7, to replace Carlos Gimenez, who resigned to run for mayor in the same special election called to replace Carlos Alvarez, who voters also recalled.
7. I am reading this on Monday. Can I still vote early?
No. The final day for that was on Sunday.
8. Where can I find more information about the candidates?
The Miami Herald published profiles of each candidate, and they are linked below.
The candidates are:
Education: Bachelor of Arts in business administration, Florida International University
Neighborhood: The Roads in Miami
Education: Attended the University of Miami
Neighborhood: The Roads
Education: Marketing courses in a United Nations education program and an acting program at the Havana Arts Institute
Birthplace: Havana, Cuba