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Voter Registration Paints Party Pictures

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It should be no surprise presidential candidate Marco Rubio spent the final days of Florida’s Republican primary campaign visiting places like Melbourne and The Villages. Or that former President Bill Clinton was campaigning for his wife, Democrat Hillary Clinton, in places like Tallahassee.

After all, a big part of winning primaries involves turning out the base.

Voter registration for the presidential primaries closed last month. And here are seven party takeaways from numbers compiled by the state Division of Elections:

The big, big picture: Though the GOP controls the Legislature, the governor’s office and the Florida Cabinet, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans. The state has 4,569,788 registered Democrats eligible to cast votes in the primary and 4,276,104 Republicans. But as Florida moves toward the November general election, keep this in mind: It has 2,878,468 voters who registered with no party affiliation.

Urban power: Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in all of the biggest urban counties: Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange Duval and Pinellas. The differences are particularly stark in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, which have about 607,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Meanwhile, on the other end of Florida: The Panhandle is a far cry from Southeast Florida, in more ways than one. And the three most-heavily Republican counties, by percentages of voters, are Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton in the Great Northwest. Republicans make up 58.2 percent of the voters in Okaloosa, 57.7 percent in Santa Rosa and 56.4 percent in Walton. Combined, Republicans outnumber Democrats in those three counties by nearly 109,000 voters.

Tallying up the Democrats: State government might be run by Republicans, but that doesn’t mean residents in Tallahassee and one of its next-door neighbors are rushing to sign up with the GOP. Democrats in Leon County outnumber Republicans by a margin of 102,663 to 54,315. Meanwhile, adjoining Gadsden County is the most Democratic county in the state, at least measured by percentages of voters, with 76.4 percent.

Retirement haven for Republicans: The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in Central Florida, has become a popular campaign spot for Republican candidates in recent years, including Rubio on Sunday. It’s no wonder. In Sumter County, which is home to a large chunk of The Villages, the number of registered Republicans more than doubles the number of registered Democrats — 46,155 to 22,790.

Southern tradition: It still means something to be a Southern Democrat in many areas of North Florida. Not counting Gadsden, Democrats made up more than half of the registered voters in 11 other rural counties — Liberty, Madison, Calhoun, Jefferson, Lafayette, Hamilton, Franklin, Taylor, Jackson, Union and Dixie. But here’s the rub: Conservative voters in those counties often cast ballots for Republican candidates in state and national elections. As an example, Republican Rick Scot won 10 of those 11 counties — Jefferson was the only exception — in his 2014 re-election campaign.

Hot corners for Republicans: The Northwest corner of the state isn’t the only corner good to Republicans. Three counties that flank Jacksonville in the Northeast corner — Nassau, Clay and St. Johns — are among the top seven GOP counties, based on percentages of registered voters. Nassau is at 54.7 percent, Clay is at 53.3 percent, and St. Johns is at 52.4 percent. Right behind them is Collier County in the far Southwest corner. Coller, which is Scott’s home base, is at 51.2 percent.

About Jim Saunders - News Service of Florida

Jim Saunders is a reporter for the News Service of Florida, a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.

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