‘The NPA voters are coming,’ veteran insider Marian Johnson tells Florida Chamber crowd

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It’s not a surprise to anyone following politics in the Sunshine State that the biggest group of new voters are those not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

According to Marian Johnson, senior vice president of political operations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Florida Political Institute, Non-Party-Affiliated (NPA) voters have grown an astounding 470 percent from 1994 to 2015, and now amount to 3.2 million voters in the state.

There are more Democrats than Republicans in Florida today, but Johnson says that will change within the next seven years, with NPAs superseding Republicans in party affiliation by 2022. Currently 38 percent of the electorate in the state is Democratic, 35 percent are Republican, and NPAs are now 27 percent.

And of the 3.2 million of those NPA voters, only about 300,000 belong to a third political party like the Greens or Libertarians. The rest are completely independent.

There are now 13 out of the state’s 67 counties that have more NPA registered voters than Republicans or Democrats.

Johnson says that the perception that Florida is a “purple state” that is neither red nor blue in its party affiliation is  no longer accurate.

“We’re a state that is a big influx of NPA voters that haven’t really taken ground yet and are not yet grounded in …how they’re going to vote. They can and will I predict make a big difference in how Florida is governed,” she said.

Johnson also unveiled a new poll that looked at a variety of subjects, including the presidential race, which has Donald Trump still on top with 25 percent support, Marco Rubio at 14 percent, Jeb Bush at 13 percent, Carly Fiorina 11 percent, Ben Carson at 9 percent and  Ted Cruz at 6 percent.

Joining in the presentation was recent hire Andrew Wiggins, senior director of campaigns and elections for the Chamber. He provided an update on redistricting and the general state of play in Florida politics.

The recent Florida Supreme Court ruling that the Legislature had violated the Fair District constitutional amendments by gerrymandering eight of the state’s 27  congressional districts appeared to rankle Johnson, who remarked that the high court had taken the “unprecedented freedom to actually go against our constitution.”

“That is clearly up to the Legislature,” she said about the fact that the drawing of the congressional and Senate lines could be done by a judge and not the Legislature. “We’ve got some real political dysfunction going on in Florida today, and it matters.”

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.