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The handful of Florida counties that could decide the 2016 election

The handful of Florida counties that could decide the 2016 election

To win Florida, the candidates need electoral votes and newly registered Hispanic voters.

Florida has once again become an important battleground state and could decide the election this year. In the past two decades, presidential candidates have won Florida by margins of only a few hundred thousand votes. The most extreme case was in 2000, when George W. Bush won by 500 votes. With Florida, he won the presidency.

Florida election results and margins between the top two candidates.

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

Year 1992

BUSH

40.9%

+100,607

 

CLINTON

39.0%

Year 1996

CLINTON

48.0%

+302,436

DOLE

42.3%

Year 2000

BUSH

48.8%

+537

GORE

48.8%

Year 2004

BUSH

52.1%

+380,978

KERRY

47.1%

Year 2008

OBAMA

51.0%

+236,450

MCCAIN

48.2%

Year 2012

OBAMA

50.0%

+74,309

ROMNEY

49.1%

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

Year 1992

40.9%

BUSH

+100,607

 

CLINTON

39.0%

Year 1996

48.0%

CLINTON

+302,436

DOLE

42.3%

Year 2000

BUSH

48.8%

+537

GORE

48.8%

Year 2004

BUSH

52.1%

+380,978

KERRY

47.1%

Year 2008

OBAMA

51.0%

+236,450

MCCAIN

48.2%

Year 2012

OBAMA

50.0%

+74,309

ROMNEY

49.1%

1992

1996

2000

+537

+100,607

 

+302,436

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

BUSH

CLINTON

CLINTON

DOLE

BUSH

GORE

40.9%

39.0%

48.0%

42.3%

48.8%

48.8%

2004

2008

2012

+380,978

+236,450

+74,309

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

BUSH

KERRY

OBAMA

MCCAIN

OBAMA

ROMNEY

52.1%

47.1%

51.0%

48.2%

50.0%

49.1%

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

+100,607

 

+302,436

+537

+380,978

+236,450

+74,309

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

WINNER'S

VOTE MARGIN

BUSH

CLINTON

CLINTON

DOLE

BUSH

GORE

BUSH

KERRY

OBAMA

MCCAIN

OBAMA

ROMNEY

40.9%

39.0%

48.0%

42.3%

48.8%

48.8%

52.1%

47.1%

51.0%

48.2%

50.0%

49.1%

Polls in this swing state give Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the lead. But Eduardo Gamarra, a political scientist at Florida International University, warns that it's still too early to tell. "The race has not been decided," he says. Statistically, Trump still has a shot.

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The battle for the state's 29 electoral votes is concentrated in a dozen counties in central Florida - the famous I-4 corridor, between Orlando and Tampa - and the Southeast. In 2014, both of these areas were home to 56% of the state's voting-age citizens. Among eligible voters, nearly two million were Hispanic.

Eligible voters

(citizens 18 and older, 2014)

70,000

150,000

250,000

500,000

750,000

Florida

13,673,530

Orlando

Central region

4,118,720

I4

Tampa

Southeast region

3,602,245

More than half of eligible Florida voters are concentrated

in central and southeast Florida.

56.5%

Central +

southeast

7,720,965

Rest of Florida

5,952,565

Volusia

Palm Beach

Seminole

Orange

Broward

Pasco

Pinellas

Miami

Dade

Hillsborough

Polk

Osceola

Eligible voters

(citizens 18 and older, 2014)

70,000

150,000

250,000

500,000

750,000

Florida

13,673,530

Orlando

Central region

4,118,720

I4

Tampa

Southeast region

3,602,245

More than half of eligible Florida voters are concentrated in central and southeast Florida.

56.5%

Central +

southeast

7,720,965

Rest of Florida

5,952,565

Volusia

Palm Beach

Seminole

Orange

Broward

Pasco

Pinellas

Miami

Dade

Hillsborough

Polk

Osceola

Florida

13,673,530

Central region

Orlando

4,118,720

I4

Eligible voters

Tampa

(citizens 18 and older, 2014)

70,000

150,000

250,000

500,000

750,000

Miami

Southeast region

3,602,245

More than half of eligible Florida voters are concentrated in central and southeast Florida.

56.5%

Volusia

Palm Beach

Seminole

Central +

southeast

Orange

Broward

7,720,965

Pasco

Pinellas

Miami

Dade

Hillsborough

Rest of Florida

5,952,565

Polk

Osceola

More than half of eligible Florida voters are concentrated in central and southeast Florida.

FLORIDA

13,673,530

Orlando

56.5%

Central region

4,118,720

Central +

southeast

Rest of

Florida

5,952,565

I4

Tampa

7,720,965

Eligible voters

(citizens 18 and older, 2014)

70,000

150,000

250,000

500,000

750,000

Volusia

Palm Beach

Seminole

Miami

Orange

Broward

Southeast region

Pasco

3,602,245

Pinellas

Miami

Dade

Hillsborough

Polk

Osceola

More than half of eligible Florida voters are concentrated in central and southeast Florida.

FLORIDA

13,673,530

Orlando

56.5%

Central region

Central +

southeast

4,118,720

Rest of

Florida

5,952,565

I4

Tampa

7,720,965

Eligible voters

(citizens 18 and older, 2014)

Volusia

70,000

150,000

250,000

500,000

750,000

Palm Beach

Seminole

Orange

Miami

Broward

Pasco

Southeast region

Pinellas

3,602,245

Miami

Dade

Hillsborough

Polk

Osceola

THE HEARTLAND: A CHANGING AND COVETED VOTE

The I-4 corridor is critical to the election, says University of South Florida professor Susan MacManus. It’s home to a large number of registered voters, and divided almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

Among Central Florida counties, Hillsborough is a good indicator for the state. "Traditionally, it has been the best predictor of how the state will vote in the presidential election," says MacManus.

% of the vote in

HILLSBOROUGH county

% of the vote in Florida

50%

0

50%

Reagan

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

Reagan

G.H.W. Bush

Clinton

Clinton

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

Obama

Obama

50

0

50

In recent years, Hillsborough County election results have resembled results

in the whole state.

% of the vote in

ORANGE county

% of the vote in Florida

50%

0

50%

Reagan

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

Reagan

G.H.W. Bush

Clinton

Clinton

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

Obama

Obama

50

0

50

In the last two elections, the number of Democratic voters has grown and is now above the state average.

% of the vote

in Florida

% of the vote in

HILLSBOROUGH county

50%

0

50%

Reagan

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

Reagan

G.H.W. Bush

Clinton

Clinton

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

Obama

Obama

50

0

50

In recent years, Hillsborough County election results have resembled results

in the whole state.

% of the vote in

ORANGE county

% of the vote

in Florida

50%

0

50%

Reagan

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

Reagan

G.H.W. Bush

Clinton

Clinton

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

Obama

Obama

50

0

50

In the last two elections, the number of Democratic voters has grown and is now above the state average.

% of the vote in

HILLSBOROUGH county

% of the vote in

ORANGE county

% of the vote in Florida

% of the vote in Florida

50%

0

50%

50%

0

50%

Reagan

Reagan

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

Reagan

Reagan

G.H.W. Bush

G.H.W. Bush

Clinton

Clinton

Clinton

Clinton

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

Obama

Obama

Obama

Obama

50

0

50

50

0

50

In the last two elections, the number of Democratic voters has grown and is now above the state average.

In recent years, Hillsborough County election results have resembled results

in the whole state.

% of the vote

in Florida

% of the vote

in Florida

% of the vote in

HILLSBOROUGH county

% of the vote in

ORANGE county

50%

0

50%

50%

0

50%

Reagan

Reagan

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

1980

1984

1988

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

Reagan

Reagan

G.H.W. Bush

G.H.W. Bush

Clinton

Clinton

Clinton

Clinton

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

G.W. Bush

Obama

Obama

Obama

Obama

50

0

50

50

0

50

In the last two elections, the number of Democratic voters has grown and is now above the state average.

In recent years, Hillsborough County election results have resembled results

in the whole state.

THE SOUTHEAST: EVERY VOTE COUNTS

In Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, voter turnout will be key. All three have voted overwhelmingly Democratic (especially Palm Beach and Broward), so Republicans will have to go after every vote.

Democratic candidate John Kerry won in these three counties in the 2004 election, in some cases with more than 60% of the vote. But George W. Bush won more than 800,000 votes in those counties - giving him a victory in Florida.

Cubans in South Florida are critical for Republicans, says Gamarra, although he says that this community is changing. On one hand, each new generation tends to lean more Democratic. On the other hand, many older Cuban Americans "feel abandoned" by the Republican Party and disappointed by Trump, but are unwilling to vote for Clinton.

WHO CAN MOBILIZE MORE VOTERS?

Ahead of the election, the key may be the ability of the two parties to register new voters. According to MacManus, Republicans are mobilizing first-time voters. These are people who "are tired of politics as usual and are attracted to Trump," she says.

But the same ideas that are seducing new Republican voters may also encourage votes for the Democrats. "It's a paradox,” Gamarra said. “What Trump says about immigration is what has succeeded in mobilizing whites, but it is also what’s probably mobilizing Hispanics to participate."

The question is whether new Hispanic voter registrations will be enough to offset an increase in Trump voters.

Number of voters registered as Democrats or Republicans by August 2016.

4,690,721

4,431,400

Hispanics

Hispanics

737,589

501,344

DEMOCRATS

REPUBLICANS

So far, more than 12 million people are registered to vote in Florida. Since January of this year, more than 230,000 new voters have registered as Republicans. Democrats added more than 150,000 voters in the same period.

MORE HISPANIC VOTERS

There are nearly two million Latinos registered to vote in Florida, mostly as Democrats. Since the 2008 election, the number of Hispanics registered as Democrats has grown by 43%. Among Republicans, the number of registered Latino voters grew by 12%.

In almost all central and southeastern Florida counties, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. And since 2008, the number of Hispanic Democrats has grown more than the number of Hispanic Republicans.

Broward

Miami-Dade

Palm Beach

600

600

400

Registered voters

(in thousands)

300

300

200

Hispanics

0

0

0

16

16

16

16

16

16

08

08

08

08

08

08

Democrats

Republicans

Hillsborough

Pasco

Orange

Osceola

350

130

350

80

175

65

175

40

0

0

0

0

16

16

16

16

08

08

16

16

16

16

08

08

08

08

08

08

Pinellas

Polk

Seminole

Volusia

250

150

120

140

125

75

60

70

0

0

0

0

16

16

16

16

16

16

16

16

08

08

08

08

08

08

08

08

In almost all central and southeastern Florida counties, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. And since 2008, the number of Hispanic Democrats has grown more than the number of Hispanic Republicans.

Broward

600

600

Registered voters

(in thousands)

300

300

Hispanics

0

0

16

16

08

08

08

DEM.

REP.

Miami-Dade

Palm Beach

Hillsborough

400

350

200

175

0

0

16

16

16

16

16

08

08

08

08

08

Orange

Osceola

350

80

130

175

40

65

0

0

0

16

16

16

16

16

08

08

08

08

Pasco

Pinellas

Polk

130

250

150

65

125

75

0

0

0

16

16

16

16

16

08

08

08

08

08

Seminole

Volusia

120

140

60

70

0

0

16

16

16

16

16

08

08

08

08

08

The Democratic Party is working hard to register Puerto Ricans newly arrived to the I-4 region, where the Puerto Rican population has increased greatly in recent years, MacManus says. In 2010, 264,939 Puerto Ricans resided in Orange, Osceola, Polk and Seminole counties. Four years later, that number was 324,061.

The candidates are also eying independents and Hispanic millennials in the state. Nearly three million voters in Florida don't identify with a party. Of these, more than 630,000 are Hispanic -- more than the number of Latino Republicans. Gamarra explains that this number reflects a national pattern, in which the number of independents "has grown significantly."

Young Hispanics are reluctant to take sides. In the United States, Latinos under age 30 make up 44% of eligible Hispanic voters, says Gamarra. "Characteristically, millennials don’t register or vote. And that's the big concern of strategists, especially the Democrats."

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A number of questions remain: How Hispanics will vote, how many new voters Trump will attract, who independents and young people will choose. "This year, all the rules, all the knowledge we have, is in question," Gamarra says.

SOURCE: Juan Clavijo (Cifras & Conceptos), American Community Survey (Census Bureau), Pew Research Center and Florida Division of Elections.

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