Florida Keys residents are getting an early start on voting to skip the actual March 15 election day.

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin said 11,204 absentee ballots had been mailed out as of Friday. Of those, 1,867 (16 percent) have been returned.


As of Friday, the Keys had 53,559 registered voters, 19,819 (37 percent) registered Republicans, 17,292 (32 percent) Democrats and 16,448 (31 percent) either in other parties or nonaffiliated.


March 15 is the date of the Presidential Primaries. It's also when voters countywide will decide in a referendum whether to continue a 50 cent annual property tax "for operations such as teachers, school nurses and classroom material" for the Monroe County School District.


The so-called half-mill is voted on every four years and the money goes to operations. If passed, its renewal would start July 1 and would last for four years.


That's separate from a half-penny schools sales tax that voters already approved. It's voted on every 10 years and that money has to go to capital projects.


In Key West only, voters are being asked whether the city should buy the Peary Court subdivision for $55 million for use as affordable housing and, if so, the mechanism to pay for it.


Requests for absentee ballots to be mailed must be made by March 9 for the March 15 vote. To get one from the Supervisor of Elections Office, voters can click on "Vote by Mail" at www.keyselections.org.


Griffin said voters can choose to get any ballot for which they are eligible through two general elections. She said, for example, if done today, voters can request ballots to the end of December 2018.


Absentee ballots must be returned to her office by 7 p.m. election night to be counted. Griffin advises requesting absentee ballots early to make sure voters have sufficient time to receive them and mail them back.


To register to vote, go to www.keyselections.org, click "Register to Vote" and fill out the form. The completed application should be mailed to the Supervisor of Elections Office's main office at 530 Whitehead St., Suite 101, Key West, FL 33040-6577. Voters can check their status by clicking on the "My Registration Status."


Early voting has already started. Early voting is 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily Feb. 29 through March 12.