Past Pinellas undervotes: A sign of what's to come?
The sheer length of this year's Florida election ballot is generating predictions of a historic level of drop-off, in which voters tire of the lengthy ballot or run out of time and leave many races blank. When a voter skips a race, it shrinks the pool of voters having a say on that issue, and could make it easier for some of the constitutional amendments to pass (they require 60 percent approval to pass).
Another word for drop-off is undervote, and it's nothing new. Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark went into her files and calculated the level of drop-off for every election on the county ballot in 2008 and 2010. The turnout was much greater in 2008 (73 percent) than it was in 2010 (51 percent) because it was a presidential election.
Here are the percentages of ballot drop-off for key races in Pinellas in the Nov. 4, 2008 presidential election:
President: 0.2; Congress (Bill Young over Bob Hackworth): 6.9; State senator (Mike Fasano over Fred Taylor): 7.2; Sheriff (Jim Coats over Randall Jones): 6.0; County commission (Neil Brickfield over Paul Matton): 14.5; Merit retention of DCA Judge Chris Altenbernd, 24; School Board District 1, at large (Janet Clark over Jennifer Crockett): 28; East Lake Tarpon Fire District Seat 1 (Bill Cannon over Wayne Ferguson): 44; Constitutional amendment 8, community college funding: 13; county charter amendment, 19 percent.