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How has voter registration changed in Florida, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties over the past few years?

Statewide and locally, the trend is more and more people registering as something other than Republican or Democrat.

In the general election of 2000, Republicans constituted 43.4 percent of registered voters in Florida, compared with 39.2 percent Democrats and 17.3 percent in the "other" category.

By the end of August 2008, Republicans were 41.3 percent of voters, Democrats 37 percent and other 21.7 percent. In terms of actual numbers, that's 4,389,698 Republicans, 3,924,081 Democrats and 2,304,740 other: 10,618,519 total.

Pinellas broke down this way in 2000: 42.1 percent GOP, 37.2 percent Democrats, 20.6 percent other. Now, it's 37.1 percent GOP, 38.6 percent Democrat and 24.3 percent other.

In Hillsborough, in 2000 it was 36.7 percent GOP, 44.2 percent Democrat and 19.1 percent other. Now it's 33.7 percent GOP, 42.5 percent Democrat and 23.8 percent other.

Pasco's numbers went from 40.6 percent GOP, 40 percent Democrat and 19.3 percent other in 2000 to 39.2 percent GOP, 37 percent Democrat and 23.6 percent other this year.

What's the vice president's job?

Since running mates to the presidential candidates are automatically qualified to perform their duties, what are the duties of the vice president?

The vice president doesn't have many duties - stepping in if the president is disabled, incapacitated or dead, and serving as president of the Senate. That's it! The vice president gets to vote in the Senate only when a tie-breaking vote is needed.

Over the years, the role of the vice president has evolved. Today the job is seen as an integral part of a president's administration, and the vice president presides over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions. The vice president must be prepared for the worst and available when needed.

What's this recession talk?

Why is it important whether we are or are not in a "recession"? I have read a technical definition of the word, and I have seen and heard many news reports in which economists and government officials opine on whether we are or are not in a recession. What is resting on that determination?

The determination of a recession - usually made well after the fact - can be thought of as an economic, political and historical yardstick. It is used to judge how policymakers handled the economy and its problems on their watch. It also represents a lasting page in the country's economic history.

The end of a recession, meanwhile, signals the start of an economic recovery, which also can have implications for decisions made by policymakers, businesses, job seekers and others.