Florida Republicans making gains in registrations in smaller counties
There is no doubting that the presidential primary played a big part in a surge of Republican voters that have been added to the voter roles this year, but there is more to the increase than just that, insists Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia.
Since January, Florida's active voter registrations have increased by 377,000, with nearly 60 percent of those in favor of Republicans. Republicans added 154,000 voters just in those first three months. But even since then, Republicans have continued to add, picking up another 68,000 voters since May.
Ingoglia said the RPOF has put a big emphasis on training staff and volunteers to identify people in rural and mid-sized counties who are independents or with other parties and getting them to switch over. He said in more rural counties where voters have been picking Republicans in presidential elections, voters continue to be Democrats because of tradition.
Ingoglia said the more those counties switch voters over, the more viable it becomes for candidates to run as Republicans for local offices, like sheriff. In a lot of the rural counties, people are still registered as Democrats to vote in local primaries but vote Republican in presidential cycles.
“The goal was to get as close to parity with Democrats as possible in those counties,” Ingoglia said.
Just since the 2014 November elections, 10 counties that had been a majority of Democrats now have a majority of Republicans, Florida Division of Elections records show. Florida now has a Republican majority in 39 out of 67 counties.
Two of the latest counties to switch majorities to the GOP include Okeechobee County and Suwannee County. The signify exactly what Ingoglia is talking about. Okeechobee, which has 19,000 voters, has had a Democratic majority in registrations for decades, yet a Democrat has not carried the county in a presidential election since Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election over Bob Dole. In Suwannee, which has 26,000 registered voters, a Democrat had not carried the state in a presidential campaign since Jimmy Carter in 1980.
The largest party to switch over the last year, as the Times reporters earlier this year, was Pinellas County. Republicans now have a 635-voter advantage over Democrats in Pinellas, which has more than 625,000 voters.