Florida vot­ing by the num­bers: Elec­torate is 13.3 mil­lion strong

Regis­tered Democrats out­num­ber Re­pub­li­cans in Or­ange County

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - LOCAL & STATE - By Jim Saun­ders News Ser­vice of Florida

TAL­LA­HAS­SEE — By the time polls close Nov. 6, nearly 13.3 mil­lion Florid­i­ans will have the op­por­tu­nity to cast bal­lots for a gov­er­nor, a U.S. sen­a­tor and dozens of other state and lo­cal can­di­dates.

New to­tals show that about 264,000 more vot­ers are regis­tered for the gen­eral elec­tion than were el­i­gi­ble to vote in the Aug. 28 pri­maries, with regis­tered Democrats con­tin­u­ing to main­tain a rel­a­tively small edge over Re­pub­li­cans.

Doubt­less, po­lit­i­cal ex­perts have looked care­fully at the new reg­is­tra­tion num­bers to try to fig­ure out what they mean for this year's elec­tions. But the num­bers, posted on the state Divi­sion of Elec­tions web­site, also of­fer an in­ter­est­ing peek at how Florida voter-reg­is­tra­tion pat­terns have changed dur­ing the past two decades — a pe­riod of al­most-to­tal Repub­li­can con­trol of state gov­ern­ment that started when Gov. Jeb Bush was elected in 1998.

Here are some take­aways:

Big num­bers

Go­ing into the Novem­ber elec­tion, 13,278,070 Florid­i­ans are regis­tered to vote. That is up from the 13,013,657 who were regis­tered to vote in the Au­gust pri­maries.

With Florida grow­ing steadily for decades, it's not sur­pris­ing that the num­ber of regis­tered vot­ers has also steadily climbed. Dur­ing the last mid-term elec­tions in 2014, for ex­am­ple, Florida had 11,931,533 regis­tered vot­ers.

In 1998, when Bush and Demo­crat Buddy MacKay ran for gov­er­nor, Florida had 8,220,266 regis­tered vot­ers. And con­sider this: Sumter County had 26,002

regis­tered vot­ers in 1998. This year --- with the mas­sive Vil­lages re­tire­ment com­mu­nity help­ing fuel growth --- Sumter County has 96,497 regis­tered vot­ers.

Demo­cratic surge

While Democrats have lost ground in reg­is­tra­tion in many parts of the state, they have been buoyed by changes in metro Or­lando. Or­ange County has 798,373 regis­tered vot­ers for the Novem­ber elec­tion, in­clud­ing 339,550 regis­tered Democrats and 211,038 regis­tered Re­pub­li­cans.

That rep­re­sents a mas­sive change over the past two decades. In 1998, Or­ange County had 353,852 regis­tered vot­ers, with Re­pub­li­cans slightly out­num­ber­ing Democrats by about 6,000 vot­ers. The num­ber of no-party vot­ers in the county also surged dur­ing the pe­riod, go­ing from 49,082 in 1998 to 241,405 this year.

Democrats also have built a big ad­van­tage in neigh­bor­ing Osce­ola County. The per­cent­age of vot­ers regis­tered as Democrats has re­mained about the same com­pared to 1998, at slightly less than 43 per­cent. But regis­tered Re­pub­li­cans have dropped from 37.4 per­cent to 22.6 per­cent

No party

Florida has 4,944,867 regis­tered Democrats for the Novem­ber elec­tion and 4,681,598 regis­tered Re­pub­li­cans. That 263,269 mar­gin is sim­i­lar to the 245,301 dif­fer­ence in the Au­gust pri­mary. Mean­while, Re­pub­li­cans have nar­rowed the gap since the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion, when Democrats held a 455,946-voter edge.

But as Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum and Repub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis run for gov­er­nor and Demo­crat Bill Nel­son and Repub­li­can Rick Scott run for U.S. Sen­ate, the real story could be in vot­ers cat­e­go­rized as “no party af­fil­i­a­tion.” That fast­grow­ing group to­tals 3,549,094 regis­tered vot­ers for the Novem­ber elec­tion, up from 2,778,547 in 2014.

The trend is even more pro­nounced in the long term: In 1998, no-party vot­ers made up about 13.5 per­cent of the to­tal vot­ers. This fall, they make up 26.7 per­cent.

Where the votes are

With time dwin­dling be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion, don’t be sur­prised if you see the statewide can­di­dates, par­tic­u­larly Democrats, spend­ing much of their time in South­east Florida, Or­lando and the Tampa Bay area. The rea­son is fairly straight­for­ward: That’s where the votes are.

Com­bined, Mi­ami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach coun­ties have nearly 3.54 mil­lion regis­tered vot­ers, or more than a quar­ter of the over­all to­tal. Add in Or­ange, Pinel­las and Hills­bor­ough coun­ties and the to­tal grows to 5.86 mil­lion, or about 44 per­cent of the to­tal. All six of the coun­ties have more regis­tered Democrats than Re­pub­li­cans, though Pinel­las is al­most evenly split.

On the other end of the spec­trum, the six coun­ties with the fewest vot­ers — Lafayette, Lib­erty, Glades, Union, Hamil­ton and Franklin — com­bine for a to­tal of 38,420. Lafayette and Lib­erty each have fewer than 5,000 regis­tered vot­ers, while the oth­ers are below 8,000.

RI­CARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA/OR­LANDO SENTINEL

Signs guide vot­ers Mon­day out­side the early vot­ing venue at the Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Florida.

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