The one clear answer is that the 2.6 million registered No Party Affiliated (NPA) Florida independent voters have the potential to significantly influence future elections.
Florida Independent Voting.Org analyzed district-by-district statistics from the Division of Elections on voter registration and election results in 2012. We applied hypothetical voting percentages to each race to see what combined voting percentages of Democrats and NPA voters might accomplish in future elections by voting for Democratic candidates.
We did not analyze a combination of Republican and NPA voters since Republicans hold significant majority’s statewide and nationally. Additionally, the most recent Pew Research Center poll (2012) on changing voter demographics indicates that 48 percent of independents tend to lean democratic.
The 2013-2014 Florida U.S. Congressional delegation includes 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats; a 63% Republican majority.
According to the Florida Division of Elections, 2012 voter turnout averaged 71.5 percent. If we apply this percentage to Democratic and NPA voters that did not vote in 2012, the result flips to a Democratic majority (17 – 10). Only 2 of the 27 seats featured unopposed candidates.
The University of Virginia Center for Politics’ “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” projects three 2014 election seats as a toss-up, one seat as likely Republican, and one seat as leaning Republican.FIV projects that 4 seats could become Democratic in 2014 given the large numbers of NPA voters and the assumption that a mid-term election would result in a “high” voter turnout.
If the U.S. Congressional District 13 special election to fill Bill Young’s seat results in a Democratic win, 2014 could be a tipping point for Democrats. Given the public disgust with the 2013 government shutdown and the brinksmanship over the artificial debt limit, independent-minded NPA voters could swing democratic if they see Republicans as the reason for the gridlock.
Most recently, the flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act may influence 2014 election results depending on how well the Obama administration is able to recover from the debacle. Additionally, in 9 of the 27 races Democrats and independents voted Republican in significant numbers.
This calls into question what voter registration really means in Florida, but we leave that to the reader to decide.
The 2013-2014 Florida Senate includes 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats — a 65% Republican majority.
If we apply the average voter turnout percentage to Democratic and NPA voters that did not vote in 2012, the chart below shows a dramatic, but unrealistic swing to a 29–11 Democratic majority.
Of the 30 Senate races, only 3 (10%) were unopposed races. If districts that had a significant number of Democratic and NPA people voting Republican are considered safe seats, a vote swing of 6 seats is still possible in the other races.
The 6 seat swing would yield a 50/50 split in the Senate. This analysis assumes the districts that were not up for re-election (Florida has term limits) remain unchanged.
The 2013-2014 Florida State Legislature includes 75 Republicans and 45 Democrats; a 63% Republican majority.
If we apply the average voter turnout percentage to Democratic and NPA voters that did not vote in 2012, the chart below shows a dramatic swing in theory. However, the reality of Florida elections tells a different story.
- Actual election results show effects of apparent gerrymandering where over 49 percent of races (59 seats; 37 Republican and 22 Democrat) were uncontested.
- Of 61 contested seats, 11 featured Republican versus NPA candidates with no Democratic Party opposition.
- Further, 20 percent (24) of contested races had significant numbers of Democrats and independents voting Republican.
- FIV’s analysis indicates that16 potential reversible seats were questionable due to low swing voter margins (<15,000 votes).
- The recent win in Florida House District 36 (Amanda Murphy) was made possible by independents voting democratic.
- In sum, approximately 10 Republican incumbent seats appear to be reversible, not enough to achieve parity between the parties.
In summary, FIV’s hypothetical analyses show that anything is possible in elections. The large number of Democrats and independents voting for Republican candidates raises all sorts of questions when trying to predict election outcomes. The lack of democratic candidates in districts where Republican and Democrat registration is nearly equal raises a question about party leadership and strength.
Clearly future redistricting needs to happen to reduce the number of uncontested races. Gerrymandering is certainly present in the Florida House races but not as significant a factor in congressional and Florida Senate races. Strong candidates and voter turnout are still the determining factor; independent voters can and will influence outcomes in future elections.