Florida voters turning away from major party registration, NPA grows

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As early voting begins Monday for the Aug. 26 primaries, more Democrats in Florida are eligible to cast ballots than Republicans — 450,000 more, according the state Division of Elections.

Both major parties are showing a decline in numbers over the past two years, with the Democratic lead over Republicans continuing to shrink, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida. In 2010, the advantage was 612,000 voters; in 2012, it was 535,000.

Overall numbers of Florida voters are about 11.8 million, down 126,939 since the presidential race of 2012, when electoral interest is usually higher.

Democrats and Republicans have both decreased, as independent, no-label voters have risen by 142,835 since 2012, according to the latest statewide data on voter numbers.

One reason for lowered registration totals is “routine maintenance” by county supervisors of elections of voter rolls, removing inactive voters, according to Department of State spokesperson Brittany Lesser.

“(President) Obama’s rise in 2008 boosted Democratic numbers, his lower popularity has hurt Democrats in more recent years,” said Kevin Wagner, associate professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University. “It is important not to judge the effectiveness and importance of a party just by one year’s registration numbers, as they do move around.”

As of the final day of voter registration to vote in the 2014 primaries, state figures show Florida with 4,599,326 Democrats — nearly 39 percent of the total electorate — and 4,144,186 Republicans, or 35 percent.

Just over 2.71 million registered voters have no party affiliation, a jump from 2.57 million during the 2012 general election.

Moving away from major parties has the Republican Party of Florida concentrated “beyond the letters on their voter registration card,” said party spokesperson Susan Hepworth.

“We have moved well beyond ‘R’ vs. ‘D’ in terms of how we look at voters,” Hepworth told the News Service in an email. “Instead, we look at voters on an individual level to determine how best to persuade and turn them out.”

Amid Florida’s minor parties, the two largest have alarmingly similar names: the Independence Party of Florida and the Independent Party of Florida.

The Independent Party has swollen from 248,671 to 265,012 voters over the past two years while the Independence Party dropped from 55,074 to 49,511, Turner writes.

During the same period, the Libertarian Party has 22,716 registered voters, up from 19,892 in 2012.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.