Where The Votes Are: Party Challenges Differ by District



For Democrats to ride a a predicted “blue wave” to any surprising wins on the Gulf Coast this year will still require winning over more Republicans in the region. Even in places like Sarasota County, where Democrats showed strong turnout in the August 28 primary election of more than 40 percent, Republicans turning out at under 38 percent still substantially outnumbered Democratic counterparts at the polls.

The topic will be one of many explored today at a Where The Votes Are election at SRQ Media Group’s headquarters on Pineapple Avenue today. Doors open at 7:30am with a charge of $5 at the door.

Democrats in August didn’t beat the GOP in turnout everywhere. In fact, in Manatee it was Republicans who turned out at greater than 40 percent. There, more than 35,000 Republicans showed up to vote than did Democrats.

But one thing is for sure, according to election officials. The polls will be busy in November. “We had the highest turnout in a primary since 1994,” says Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner, noting about 32 percent of registered voters participated in the normally low-key August contests.He notes that four years ago, the county delivered a 57 percent turnout for a the general election, the last vote in a gubernatorial year. He anticipates a higher turnout this time.

Manatee County had an even greater turnout in the primary than Sarasota, with more than 32 percent of voters coming out. This could be a record-setting year for all around.

And why not? Turner notes that a special election in state House 72 in February delivered the second highest special election turnout in modern Florida history. That February 13 contest actually attracted nearly 36 percent of voters to the polls.

Who does it favor? Numbers can be spliced a lot of ways. More Republicans voted in the gubernatorial primary than Democrats, despite Democrats outnumbering GOP voters statewide. The Democrat who won the statewide primary also lost both Sarasota and Manatee counties. But Democrats, particularly in the Sarasota area, see lots of enthusiasm. Republicans, though, still have an edge in registered voters, and it’s only been growing.

In state House District 74, more than half of all voters in August were Republicans. Democrats could only make that claim in heavily blue districts like state House District 70. But then Democrats won the 72 special election even while more Republicans came out to vote, so the blue team has proven they can win some regional races if they peel off enough GOP votes and a big enough share of independents.

The real test, as always, will come at the general election on November 6.

Graphic by SRQ political guru Jacob Ogles.

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