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Record Voter Registration Could Mean Record Turnout in NWFL


Almost four and a half million people already have voted in the battleground state of Florida, according to the state Division of Elections.

That’s including a larger turnout so far in the western Panhandle.

Supervisors of Elections in the three counties report a record in the number of voter registrations for an election cycle: 130,000 in Santa Rosa County and  135,000 in Okaloosa.

“Include us in that list,” says Escambia County Supervisor David Stafford. “We’re up over 210,000 registered voters, which I believe makes us the largest number of registered voters west of Jacksonville.”

Stafford says they were at 37,000 early voters as of Wednesday. That’s expected to help drive a large turnout, which historically is commonplace in a presidential election.

In Okaloosa County, Supervisor Paul Lux says as of midday Wednesday, about 18,000 have voted by mail, and close to 30,000 others have cast early votes.

“We are still several thousand light on the [vote-by-mail], but of course there’s still bucket loads coming in daily,” Lux said. “I won’t be surprised to see us come near the 20-21 [thousand] mark on the absentees like we did in 2012.”

With less than 3,000 votes to go Lux says it’s likely that the county’s record early voting turnout – 33,000 and some change set in 2008 – will be eclipsed in 2016. And when early voting ends on Saturday, Sunday kicks off the final preparation for Election Day next Tuesday.

“The electronic voter check-in stations are given one last look over,” said Lux. “Monday, in addition to canvassing board duties, we’ll still be receiving a lot of ballots from overseas voters [and] a lot of faxed ballots.”

“We have already received over 15,000 vote-by-mail ballots, and we have had over 25,000 people come and early vote,” said Tappie Villane, the Supervisor of Elections in Santa Rosa County. She credits the presidential race in part for the high registration and turnout numbers. But she adds, there are some important races and issues to be settled down-ballot. 

“For example, [the] City of Milton, some races for the folks who live in the city,” Villane said. “Pace Fire-Rescue District; they have a non-binding referendum, and so does Holley-Navarre [Fire District].”

Also on the ballot: an open U.S. Congressional seat, House and Senate seats to be filled in the Florida Legislature, and amendments on solar power and medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, security at the polls doesn’t appear to be a major concern. All 67 counties will have authorized poll watchers in place. Paul Lux and Tappie Villane point to their relationships with local law enforcement. And David Stafford says they’re getting a hand from Emergency Management.

“Like everybody else, we see this presidential campaign [with] lot of people have a lot of heated emotions,” Stafford said. “But we’re confident at the end of the day everybody’s going to cast a ballot and behave themselves.”

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.