Voter registration snapshot: One week in one important county
It's one snapshot in time: three days in July in Pinellas County. But county figures on the uptick in voter registration suggest how aggressively third-party groups, most aligned with Republicans and Democrats, are signing up new voters in advance of the presidential election. For the first three days of this week, here's the tally on which groups submitted how many voter forms:
Community Voters Project: 397
Florida Democratic Party: 92
Republican Party of Florida: 13
Libertarian Party of Pinellas: 7
League of Women Voters: 5
NAACP St. Petersburg branch: 3
That's 517 voters in less than 72 hours in one county. The Community Voters Project, a nationwide group, is targeting six states, including Florida, in an effort to sign up as many African-American and Latino voters as possible in the 2016 election cycle.
"We're seeing some big numbers," Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said.
Why is Pinellas important? Here are three reasons:
* Big media: Pinellas and Hillsborough together comprise the state's largest TV market, No. 13 nationally, making its voters a major national target of political advertising.
* Big turnouts. Voter turnout in Pinellas consistently is higher than the state as a whole, in large part because of the popularity of voting by mail. Pinellas' turnout in the 2012 presidential election was 73.7, more than 2 points higher than the statewide average of 71.5 percent and the third-highest of the state's 10 most populous counties (only Brevard and Duval were higher).
* Close competition. No other urban county has such even numbers of Republicans and Democrats. Pinellas has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the past six elections, though it was extremely close in 2004 between Democrat John Kerry and Republican George W. Bush.
Both parties, bolstered by an array of third-party voter registration groups, will be ramping up their voter registration efforts in the coming weeks. The deadline to register to vote to cast a ballot in the primary is next Monday, Aug. 1, and elections officials expect a final burst of voter forms that day.
The deadline to register to vote to cast a ballot in the November general election is Oct. 11.