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One Gulfport precinct is out-voting rest of city

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

One Gulfport voting precinct is outperforming all the others in terms of early voter participation.

More than 230 Gulfport voters had returned a mail ballot in Precinct 208 as of Wednesday afternoon. That’s more than any other Gulfport precinct by at least 150 depending on the precinct. The returned ballots represent total voter turnout of 9.52 percent in that precinct with a little over two weeks still left to return them.

The disparity in turnout could be the potential result of several factors. First, Precinct 208 covers Gulfport’s Ward 1 currently represented by City Councilman Dan Liedtke who is seeking re-election against challenger April Thanos. Voters could be engaged in that race.

While the disparity in turnout among Gulfport precincts doesn’t necessarily guarantee one candidate an edge over the other, the argument can be made that increased turnout could favor one or the other.

For Liedtke, there’s the inherent advantage to being an incumbent. He likely has high name recognition in his community as a sitting council member. Supporters could be turning out to ensure he maintains the seat.

On the other hand, voters could be anxious to cast a ballot for a new City Council member. High voter turnout is often an indicator of a voting populous harboring misgivings about current representation.

Then there are demographics. Precinct 208 contains most of Gulfport’s priciest homes. Most of the city’s waterfront homes are located in that precinct. Other parts of the city, particularly portions to the north of that precinct, are home to lower income residents.

Income is a key factor in voter turnout. The group Non-Profit Vote found there was a 20-point gap between voter turnout among high-income and low-income voters. Simply put, well-off voters hit the polls substantially more than those who are poor.

Election Day is March 15, but voters can return mail ballots now. One can be requested on the Supervisor of Elections website. Gulfport voters will also choose whether to re-elect Mayor Sam Henderson or replace him with restaurant owner Barbara Banno.

Registered Democrats and Republicans will also vote in the Presidential Preference Primary. Countywide, more than 23,000 voters have returned ballots as of Tuesday. That represents 11.35 percent of those who had requested them.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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