(Over the next few days, I will be looking at the voter registration numbers throughout Florida from the 2000 General Election to the last numbers posted by the counties. During this examination, I will look at the good, the bad and the “who knows”. Today, this article will look at where Democrats are hurting. Tomorrow we will look at where Democrats are gaining. Finally, we will look at places where a stalemate is taking place.)
The other day, I was doing some precinct evaluations for some counties in north Florida. Of course, this is an area where some Florida Democratic Party Machine operatives feel that we should spend our time, instead of hitting the more urban areas of the state. As I was going through the county websites looking at voter registration numbers, two number really stood out. It was on the Gilchrist County Supervisor of Elections website. These were the numbers:
Registered Democrats: 4625
Registered Republicans: 4654
Yep, Gilchrist County, a place that had 72% of its voters registered as Democrats during the 2000 General Election now sees a Republican plurality in that country. And, as many of us know, this trend isn’t going to change.
But Gilchrist isn’t the only county changing. While it might be the only “Super Dixiecrat” county that has completely switched, the rest of these counties have already started to show this trend as well. Half of the counties in Florida, thirty-three to be exact, saw a loss in Democratic voters. No, not a downward trend or a lower percentage of Democratic voters, but an actual deficit in Democratic voters. All of these counties with the exception of two (Citrus and Monroe) voted for George Wallace in 1968.
Yes, this might be comparing the distant past to current numbers, but my conclusion is that the numbers in 1968 are a close representation of the current situation in these Dixiecrat counties. Let’s take the last Presidential Election for example. In the 33 counties that saw a loss in total Democrats, Gore received 39.06% of the vote. In 2004, Kerry received 34.26%. Obama in 2008 received 33.16%. Not only can we see that Obama did better in Utah than he did in these 33 counties, but there is a continued pattern of declining votes during Presidential Elections. And even with Obama getting the lowest vote total in this region compared to any recent Democratic candidate, he still carried the state. I guess it goes to show how important north Florida really is.
But the total loss of Democratic voters in these counties is just part of it. Of Florida’s 67 counties, 58 of them actually saw a loss in the percentage of Democratic voters. For example, in Palm Beach County, Democrats still out-registered Republicans, but the Democratic share of the registered voters is now 44.62% compared to 44.95% in 2000.
But to say that the Palm Beach County Democratic Party is in trouble because their voter registration numbers have been stagnant over the last twelve years would also be a misstatement. While the Democrats have lost .33% in the voter registration battle, the GOP in Palm Beach has lost 6.14%. Non-party and other party registration has increased by 6.47%. Therefore, when looking at the “major party only” voter registration, Palm Beach Democrats are still seeing a decent increase in their numbers.
So how does one differentiate between the good losses and the bad losses? Easy, just see which counties see a loss the Democratic voter percentages and a rise in GOP voter percentages. But even these numbers have their “goods and bads”. For example, the Democratic Party in Leon County lost 3.9% of total registered voters over the last twelve years. But the Republicans have only seen a .8% increase. These numbers do show a loss for the Democrats, but the Republican numbers are stagnant. This should raise a little concern for Democrats, but nothing too alarming as of yet.
On the other hand, let’s look at Baker County. The amount of registered Democrats in Baker County has been reduced by an alarming 32.92% over the last twelve years. Republican registration has increased 28.2%. And with non-party and other party registration only increasing by 4.71%, this shows that Baker County is swinging toward the Republican Party very strongly, and is a trend that will unlikely be broken. These are the counties that are the lost cause.
So, with all of these scenarios, where are Democrats losing? Purely, the Panhandle and north Florida are the sore spots, along with some rural counties in south Florida. Out of the top 22 counties which saw Democratic registration percentages drop, Republicans saw a double-digit increase in 21 of those counties. The only odd county out was the one mentioned at the beginning of this article, Gilchrist County, which has seen a 24.54% increase in non-party and other party registration, easily bucking the GOP trend in the north. All the other counties see voters registering as Republicans instead of non/other party voters, which shows a strong commitment swing to the GOP.
But even with the doom and gloom numbers, there is a silver lining. In the counties that saw this GOP swing, their new registration numbers over the past twelve years only comprise of 4.2% of the newly added voters, and only .01% of voters overall in the State of Florida.
Therefore, this brings me to my basic conclusion that I presented in 2010 regarding targeting in Florida. These north Florida counties are seeing swings, sometimes large swings, in registration from the Democratic Party to the Republicans. In addition, the populations of these counties are not increasing. Also, the number of those that have switched or became new Republican voters is such an extremely small number, they would not even a factor in any statewide race. Even their influence in State House and Senate races is starting to wain.
So the conclusion…why target these counties? Their recent voting history shows they are voting Republican. Their recent registration trends show they are registering Republican. And with the number of non/other party voters so small in these counties, they will not play a significant role in any election. For example, if you were to convince EVERY non/other party voter in counties that had less than 50,000 registered voters (29 counties in all) to vote for Alex Sink in 2010 (in addition to Democrats), she still would have lost to Rick Scott. Yes, that is every one of those voters…100% turnout….100% for Alex Sink….still a Scott victory!
Does the Florida Democratic Party Machine really think that North Florida and the Panhandle should be electoral priorities? If so, I have some people that might want to meet with them…..