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New study says 3/4 of Florida voters have never seen Jeb Bush’s name on ballot

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When Jeb Bush tells the world why he wants to be the next president of the United States on Monday afternoon in Miami, he’s expected to dig deep into the policies and accomplishments he achieved during his eight-year reign as governor of Florida from 1999-2007.

But while that will have those in attendance at Miami Dade College undoubtedly roaring with approval, a new study says that nearly three-quarters of the Sunshine State’s 12.9 million currently registered voters have never even seen Bush’s name on a ballot.

That startling statistic comes via a study conducted by University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith in conjunction with Bloomberg Media.

“That’s a surprisingly large number,” Smith tells Bloomberg, “which is due to a combination of low turnout and the turnover in the electorate over the 13 years since he was last on the ballot.”

About 35 percent of voters in that election have disappeared from the state’s rolls — most have died, moved away or gone to prison. By contrast, 92 percent of Floridians who voted when Marco Rubio was last on the ballot, in 2010, are still registered.

Bloomberg’s Joshua Green notes, however, that tracing the history of the state’s 12.9 million registered voters is difficult because the state recently purged its voter histories before 2006. But Smith, using a 2002 voter history file he purchased from the state four years ago, determined that only 3.35 million people registered today also cast ballots in the 2002 general election — just over 25 percent. They include 1.52 million registered Republicans.

A number of political commentators have noted how “rusty” Bush has appeared on the campaign trail. But that should only be natural in considering it’s been 13 years since he last campaigned for himself in any election.

While Bush and Rubio are both considered “favorite sons” in Florida (to an extent that Scott Walker has mused about possibly not competing so hard for the state when its presidential primary rolls around next March), voting statistics show that while Bush’s name is still revered in Republican political circles in Florida, it’s Rubio whom more Floridians have voted for.

Of the 5.46 million who voted in Rubio’s last election, 5.05 million remain eligible today — or 1.7 million more than are around from Bush’s last race.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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