October 20, 2014

Nearly 900,000 absentee ballots cast as early voting begins; GOP still leading big

@MarcACaputo

More than 888,000 absentee ballots had already been cast of Monday morning when early in-person voting began in Florida.

Right now, Republicans lead Democrats 49-35 percent in terms of absentee ballots cast by party. That 14 percentage point margin is lower than it was in 2010 but it’s far higher than in 2012.

Here's what's remarkable: the number of absentee ballots cast at this point relative to the 2012 elections is actually greater, by 140,695. And that's despite the fact that midterm elections have about a 50 percent turnout compared to presidential election years when turnout is over 72 percent. 

Democrats typically excel at early voting while Republicans dominate voting by mail.

But at a Miami rally today, Gov. Rick Scott and a host of other local Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, said the GOP needs to start banking in-person early votes as well.

“In 2012, when Mitt Romney lost, he lost because Republicans didn’t early vote,” Scott said. “We can win this election. We’ve got to get out and vote.”

The first part of that statement is probably historical revisionism. Romney lost for a variety of reasons, but it’s likely cause in Florida is that the GOP is so outnumbered by Democrats.

That remains the case today, with Democrats holding a 39-35 percent registration advantage of 455,946 voters. One troubling sign for both parties: the rise of the No Party Affiliation voters, who account for 23 percent of the rolls. Add in third party voters, particularly those who think “Independent Party” is really like NPA, and the proportion of independents swells to 26 percent.

Despite having such an edge, Democrats have typically been killed in midterms in Florida. Will this year be different? We'll know more in one week's time, when African-Americans (the most likely to vote early in-person) have a chance to vote after church. If Democrats haven't lowered the Republican edge to single digits in pre-Election Day ballots, Democrat Charlie Crist likely has a huge problem on his hands.

Here are the top 10 counties sorted by party affiliation

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      40,225 REP PIN 43%
      36,157 REP LEE 56%
      36,067 REP DAD 47%
      34,027 DEM PIN 37%
      28,146 DEM DAD 36%
      21,899 REP HIL 43%
      19,706 DEM HIL 39%
      19,022 DEM BRO 52%
      18,851 REP ORA 42%
      18,696 DEM ORA 41%

October 19, 2014

'Rick Scott is betting his mansion on Tampa' --and other tidbits from the $83m ad war

@SteveBousquet and @MarcACaputo

Gov ad spendFor the past year, living in Florida has meant having Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist as constant and mostly unwanted companions.

If you own a TV, you get the picture.

Ad infinitum. Ad nauseam. About $83 million since March.

For months, TV viewers have been forced to withstand a seemingly endless barrage of vicious ads from Scott and Crist as they try to trash talk their way to the Governor’s Mansion, 30 seconds at a time.

Scott and Republicans have spent $56.5 million on ads and Crist and Democrats have spent $26.5 million. Scott has bought far more ads in Tampa Bay than anywhere else: It’s the biggest TV market in Florida and Crist’s home base.

“Gov. Scott is betting his mansion on Tampa,” said Scott Tranter, a principal and consultant for a Republican-leaning data analytics firm, 0ptimus.

Using data from broadcast stations and the Florida voter file, 0ptimus has concluded that Tampa Bay viewers have seen the most negative ads from Scott about Crist, with 95 million impressions since Sept. 1.

That means a Scott ad has been seen in whole or in part 95 million times across the Tampa Bay TV market.

In a first-of-its-kind race where both candidates have been governors, voters say the two men have cheapened and demeaned the high office they seek. Their total lack of mutual respect is magnified by the fact that they refuse to address each other as “governor” and instead use “Rick” and “Charlie.”

More here

October 17, 2014

780k absentee ballots cast and GOP still leads. 'Here is what they don't tell you'

@MarcACaputo

Absentee ballots are still pouring in, with 778,876 cast of this morning. As yesterday, Republicans still hold the lead in returns over Democrats, 48-35 percent.

Here's a look at the top counties where ballots have been counted by party:

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      37,601 REP PIN 43%
      32,407 REP LEE 55%
      31,867 DEM PIN 37%
      28,281 REP DAD 47%
      22,126 DEM DAD 36%
      18,812 REP HIL 42%
      17,315 DEM HIL 39%
      16,353 DEM ORA 42%
      15,792 REP ORA 41%
      14,332 REP BRE 54%
      14,146 DEM LEE 24%
      14,119 REP DUV 55%
      14,087 REP VOL 48%
      14,058 NPA PIN 16%
      13,971 REP CLL 63%

Republicans have been crowing about their lead. But Democratic consultant Steve Schale says in a new memo that there's more than meets the eye:

[H]ere is what they don’t tell you.

Only 73 percent of people who have returned an absentee ballot voted in 2010. The other 27 percent – they didn’t vote in 2010. They are the so-called “irregular” or “Presidential” voters.

Let’s repeat that: Of the ballots cast to date – by the voters who are seemingly most interested in voting, 27 percent of the ballots have been cast by voters who did not vote in 2010. And Democrats have an edge, with 32 percent of their votes coming from voters who did not participate in 2010, compared to 20 percent of Republicans.

Republicans have long held an advantage in terms of absentee ballot voters. In fact, among the nearly 1.5 million voters currently holding an absentee ballot in their hands who voted in 2010, the GOP holds about an 180,000 voter advantage. They have more voters who always vote by absentee - so they will win among people who always vote by absentee.

But more importantly, the comparison of where were then (2010) versus now. In 2010 – on today’s day in the campaign, Republicans held an 18.5 percent advantage among returned ballots. Today it is less than 13.5 percent – and is trending Democratic. We’ve dropped the gap from 20% to 13.5% in just 10 days, and again, that is with reports that there are many ballots in three south Florida counties that have yet to be processed.

Again, the GOP advantage among people voting to date is almost exclusively from voters who voted in three of the last three races. However, the difference between their 18.5% advantage on this day in the campaign in 2010 and the 13.5% advantage today is due to the increase in returned ballots from non-2010 voters.

Sure Republicans will win absentees. They always do. But the margin will be tighter.

And keep in mind, Scott won by 61,000 votes in 2010.

Schale memo here

October 16, 2014

With nearly 700k ballots cast, memo says 'Rick Scott is winning' early-vote war. True

@MarcACaputo

More than 683,000 absentee ballots were cast as of Thursday morning, and Republicans continue to hold a solid lead over Democrats in returns, 48-35 percent.

That's not huge news, in that Republicans typically overperform in absentee-ballot casting while Democrats do the same when it comes to early in-person voting. But Democrats have been expected to close the gap with Republicans in ballots cast. Instead, the margin has increased, to 13.7 percent.

"As Charlie Crist likes to say, facts are stubborn things. Here’s a particularly stubborn fact for Charlie: Election Day is already here – and Rick Scott is winning," Gov. Rick Scott's deputy campaign manager. Tim Saler, says in a fundraising memo to donors (the entire memo is below).

Yesterday, it looked as if Democrats were starting to really pull ahead in Hillsborough, remaining close in Miami-Dade. But now Republicans are widening the gap.

But after the 2012 elections, when President Obama was supposed to have left a solid campaign infrastructure behind, Democrat Charlie Crist should probably be doing better. This is a measure of voter interest in a campaign and a campaign's ground-game turnout operation. So far, Scott is winning on both counts.

Democrats can still pull even, either with an improved ballot chasing program or an early-vote operation. Early voting starts Monday. Here's a top 10 list of ballots cast by county and party:

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      34,779 REP PIN 43%
      30,503 REP LEE 55%
      29,510 DEM PIN 37%
      23,039 REP DAD 46%
      18,357 DEM DAD 37%
      16,418 REP HIL 42%
      15,650 DEM HIL 40%
      14,835 DEM ORA 43%
      13,873 REP ORA 40%
      13,369 DEM LEE 24%

Continue reading "With nearly 700k ballots cast, memo says 'Rick Scott is winning' early-vote war. True" »

October 15, 2014

535,000 absentees already cast, Dems lagging but gaining

@MarcACaputo

More than 535,000 absentee ballots have already been cast as of Tuesday night and, as in prior mid-term elections, Republicans have a solid lead in returns.

About 48 percent of all ballots cast so far have been by Republicans, 35 percent by Democrats and 17 percent by independent voters. That Republican lead of about 13 percentage points is certainly bigger than during the 2012 presidential elections, when Democratic turnout is generally higher, but it’s slightly less for this time in the election season for a mid term.

For years, Republicans have dominated at early voting by mail; Democrats by ballot casting in person during early voting, which starts Monday.

To be clear: we won’t know how people voted until Election Day. So the return numbers are more of a gauge of campaigns’ ground games. And both sides have something to brag about.

Last week, Republicans led by 18 percentage points in ballots cast compared to Democrats, who are catching up somewhat now that the big Democratic counties, which mailed absentees later than Republican counties, are starting to report.

As usual, Pinellas County remains the Oregon of Florida as the leader in mail-in voting: 45,000 ballots cast, of which 43 percent are from Republicans, 37 percent from Democrats and 16 percent from those with no party affiliation.

Because it’s a Republican County, it’s tempting to chalk this up as a win for Gov. Rick Scott. But this is Crist’s home county, which he won outright in a three-way U.S. Senate race that he lost overall in 2010.

In Pinellas’ next door neighbor, the much-larger and more-Democratic Hillsborough, Democratic mail-in ballots exceed Republican ones cast by just 1 percentage point. If Crist wins Hillsborough, as expected, and carries his home county of Pinellas, there’s a good chance he wins the Tampa Bay media market, one of the ends of the I-4 corridor that Scott won in 2010. (Crist also needs a chunk of Pasco)

Democrats have their biggest numbers posted in Orange County, the heart of the Orlando media market in the I-4 corridor, where they lead Republicans by 3 percentage points in returns. That also bodes well for Crist.

But, still, Republicans are dominating elsewhere. Of the top 15 counties for overall returns, Republicans have cast more ballots in nine: From Pinellas to Scott’s home counties of Lee and Collier. Republicans are posting solid leads in Volusia, Sarasota and Duval counties as well -- all keys for Scott.

Republicans are also winning the Miami-Dade ballot turnout. But the lead is just 2 percentage points in a county where they once blew Democrats away. This is something to watch.

Here’s a snapshot of the returns in big counties, sorted by party:

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      27,754 REP PIN 43%
      24,322 REP LEE 54%
      24,039 DEM PIN 37%
      12,065 DEM ORA 43%
      11,289 REP DAD 42%
      11,277 DEM LEE 25%
      11,091 REP ORA 40%
      11,037 REP CLL 62%
      10,834 REP DUV 55%
      10,761 DEM DAD 40%
      10,567 NPA PIN 16%
      10,529 DEM HIL 41%
      10,481 REP VOL 47%
      10,399 REP HIL 40%
       8,966 REP SAR 45%

October 01, 2014

Floridians in 2012 waited longer to cast ballots than voters in any other state

@CAdamsMcClatchy 

Voters in Florida waited far longer than those in other states to cast their votes in the 2012 election, hampered by long ballots and cutbacks in early voting options, according to a new report by congressional auditors.

Voters in the state stood in line more than 34 minutes on average, significantly longer than ballot-casters did in any other state reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog.

The shortest waits? Alaska, at just 1.4 minutes.

Three others states had wait times about 25 or more minutes: Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina. But most of the others fell somewhere between five minutes and 20 minutes, on average.

In Florida, the GAO estimated, 16 percent of voters waited 61 minutes or more to cast their ballots — tops among the states surveyed.

“People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said in a statement.

More here

 

 

September 20, 2014

Six weeks until Election Day, but first wave of Florida ballots already in the mail

@Stevebousquet

 TALLAHASSEE — More than six weeks before Election Day, some voters are already casting ballots and helping elect Florida’s next governor.

County elections supervisors have until Saturday to mail hundreds of thousands of ballots to Floridians living overseas, many of whom are active-duty military personnel.

Those far-flung voters in Europe, Asia and elsewhere can’t see the constant barrage of TV ads in the race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist. But they represent the first wave of voters in a general election in which more than half of all participating voters likely will have voted by the time polls open Nov. 4.

Absentee or mail ballots can start going out Sept. 30, a full 10 days before the first of three live TV debates between Scott and Crist.

More here

September 17, 2014

Former Gov. Bob Martinez leads initiative to improve voter turnout; TaxWatch releases election guide

Bob Martinez, who was a civics teacher long before he became the state's 40th governor, wants to get at the heart of voter apathy in Florida.

Florida's recent primary turnout of 17.5 percent, the lowest in the past 16 years, dramatizes the need for a new initiative, said Martinez, who is heading the new TaxWatch Center for Florida Citizenship. 

"There is a lot of work to be done," said Martinez, who spoke at the press conference Wednesday sponsored by TaxWatch, which also announced the release of its 2014 election guide.

 "I don't know that we'll come up with a silver bullet but that's not the point," Martinez said. "The point is identifying why voter participation has declined."

Martinez acknowledged that negativity in campaigns is one deterrent, especially for the casual voter, but there are plenty of others, including a need for more engagement and the expectation that regular Joes can have an influence on government.

Continue reading "Former Gov. Bob Martinez leads initiative to improve voter turnout; TaxWatch releases election guide" »

April 19, 2014

Charlie Crist's major challenge: the apathetic voters of South Florida

@MarcACaputo & @stevebousquet

Sam Oser is 88, and he wants to live long enough to see a Democrat get elected governor of Florida again — even one who used to be a Republican.

So Oser is ready to embrace Charlie Crist, a career politician of changing stripes who’s a Democratic newcomer. No matter, says the West Palm Beach retiree: Democrats are doomed to irrelevance until they reclaim the Governor’s Mansion after a 16-year absence.

“We’re outnumbered,” Oser said of the Republicans’ dominance in Florida, sipping coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts. “The only way we can move ahead is to have a Democratic governor.”

The Bronx-born Oser, a World War II veteran who needs a walker to get around his Century Village retirement complex, is now a foot soldier in an increasingly diverse army of South Florida Democrats who view Republican Gov. Rick Scott as vulnerable and believe their best hope is Crist, his predecessor.

But for Crist to win, South Florida voters need to do something they haven’t done in years: vote in bigger numbers in a governor’s race.

About a third of Florida’s 4.6 million Democrats live in the three-county metropolis of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, a sprawling breadbasket of liberalism that proved critical in both of President Barack Obama’s Florida victories.

But off-year or midterm races for governor are a different story.

Year after year, voters in the Democratic region are among the state’s worst when it comes to showing up at the polls. It was most glaring in 2010 when Scott won office and statewide voter turnout was a meager 49 percent.

The turnout in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties was worse: about 41, 40 and 47 percent, respectively. If those three counties had voted at the state average, Democrat Alex Sink likely would have beaten Scott by nearly 250,000 votes statewide. Instead, Sink lost by 61,550 votes.

Crist vows that won’t happen again.

more here

April 14, 2014

Democrats' voter-registration edge ain't all it's cracked up to be

@MarcACaputo

In a state where a presidential election was famously decided by 537 ballots, Florida Democrats’ edge of 485,907 active voters over registered Republicans looks impressive at a glance.

But it isn’t.

In historical terms, it’s a bad sign for Democrats and Charlie Crist. And it’s great news for Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott.

The Democrats’ registration advantage hasn’t been this small since 2007. Perhaps more significantly, the gap is even smaller than it was in 2010 (591,809), when Republicans whipped Democrats at the ballot box.

You wouldn’t know the Democrats’ precarious position by looking at the public-opinion polls right now or by listening to Crist.

“I think we're gonna do it,” Crist told state House Democrats in Tallahassee on Thursday. “And I think they know it."

By “they,” Crist means Republicans. He used to be one of them (before becoming an independent and then a Democrat).

“They” don’t think they’re going to lose at all. There’s a reason for the Republican confidence: history.

Column here