State Politics

Want to vote in primary? Register by Monday and sign up as a Republican or a Democrat

Hannah Karcinell, 18, a recent graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, helps Miriahjo Reiss, 25, register to vote on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach on Sunday, June 24, 2018.
Hannah Karcinell, 18, a recent graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, helps Miriahjo Reiss, 25, register to vote on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach on Sunday, June 24, 2018. Erua@miamiherald.com

You still have time to become a voter.

Facing a Monday deadline, a growing number of Floridians will join the voter rolls in time to cast ballots in a primary election on Aug. 28, when both parties will choose nominees for governor.

Florida’s closed primary system is limited to Republicans and Democrats in most contests, and nearly one-third of the state’s voters are now registered with no party affiliation. Many are younger voters — the most sought-after demographic group in the state’s electorate.

That has prompted one Florida elections expert to tamp down the idea that newly registered younger voters will have a big impact in a hyper-partisan primary traditionally dominated by the most conservative and most liberal wings of the two major parties.

But it hasn’t stopped aggressive voter recruitment efforts in the weeks leading up to Monday’s registration deadline.

NextGen Florida, a liberal group, said Friday it has registered more than 18,000 young voters in advance of Monday’s deadline.

In liberal Alachua County, dominated by the city of Gainesville and the University of Florida, the county elections office said at least 1,220 new voters registered this week compared to 699 last week.

The same is true in heavily Republican Okaloosa County in the Florida Panhandle. “Yes, we have seen a late surge in voter registration applications,” said election supervisor Paul Lux.

Elections officials say much of the surge in traffic was through the state’s online voter registration system, which debuted last October and is being used in a statewide election for the first time.

Precise numbers of new registrations were hard to obtain Friday, as clerks were inputting forms, which still must be reviewed by the state Division of Elections in Tallahassee to be approved.

This might be the most publicized voter registration deadline in Florida history.

That’s because county election supervisors use social media more than ever to reach people and remind them of the Monday deadline — known in elections parlance as a book closing — to become voters or to change parties.

Supervisors are using testimonials, reminders and cartoons on Twitter and Facebook to promote one thing: Register to vote now.

Florida had 12,927,318 voters as of July 1. About 37 percent are Democrats, about 35 percent are Republicans, and about 28 percent are listed as NPA, for no party affiliation, or are members of minor parties.

The state has a recent history of low voter turnouts in primary elections. In the last midterm election four years ago, when there were no high-profile statewide races in either party, turnout was 17.6 percent.

Turnout varied widely from county to county, from 36.2 percent in tiny Union to 10.8 percent in heavily Democratic Broward, and from 24.2 percent in Pinellas County to 14.4 percent in Miami-Dade.

Contact Steve Bousquet at sbousquet@tampabay.com. Follow @stevebousquet.

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