Electoral votes: 29
2008 Result (%): Obama 50.9-48.1
Voting Pattern Summary
The Sunshine State has the second largest population of all the states of the former Confederacy. Thus Florida has a high rate of urbanisation with about 90% of all residents living in urban or suburban areas. The largest urban conglomeration is the South Florida metropolitan area consisting of Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties and the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. These three counties are the base of Democratic support in Florida.
The South Florida Metropolitan Area is ethnically diverse with Hispanics constituting a third of the population (many Cubans fleeing from Communist Cuba) and African-American constituting a further 21%. Combined with decades of migration from Northern States which includes a large Jewish population, Metro Southern Florida on its own would be blue state territory, however refugees from Castro have been an important Republican constituency.
The base of Republican support is in the north of the state which is still culturally “southern” but still highly urbanised. George Wallace was able to carry many counties in Northern Florida in 1968. Democratic Southerners Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did likewise in their presidential campaigns. Since 2000, Northern Florida is solid Republican territory, with McCain carrying Duval county, containing Jacksonville in 2008.
The swing territory is, unsurprising, are the cities in between Northern and Southern Florida; Tampa Bay, St Petersburg, Orlando and the suburban areas that surround these cities. The Interstate 4 (I-4) which connects Orlando to Tampa is near to most Central Florida urban areas, hence the term “I-4 Corridor” is used to define this Central Florida swing area.
The county to watch on election night is Hillsborough County which contains the city of Tampa. Hillsborough County has voted with the state-wide winner in Florida since 1880. Given its large share of the state wide vote, its bellwether status and its location on the I-4 corridor, Hillsborough ticks all the boxes as a guide to the outcome on election night.
The tables of the key counties are below, please click to enlarge.
Slightly older readers may recall the 2000 election saga and the hanging chads fiasco. The punch card ballot is a thing of the past in Florida as all counties use optical scanning devices for regular paper ballots and digital recording electronic devices for voters who are unable to fill in a paper ballot.
Consequently there is full paper trail for most votes, but not all in Florida. As noted in a previous post, optical scanning of ballot requires the voter to fill in a single ballot for all races by filing in squares or circles on the ballot not unlike university examinations or lotto tickets in Australia. The voter then inserts the ballot into a scanning device for the recording of the vote.
An automatic recount is triggered if the margin between the candidates is 0.5%. In such a recount all paper ballots are retabulated (i.e fed through the machine again) and the non-paper ballot votes are only given a cursory electronic reassessment. If after the recount, the margin is 0.25% or less, then a hand recount is conducted of all paper ballot where either no votes are recorded by the scanning machines or multiple votes for single office (under votes or over votes). If the number of under votes & over vote ballots is les then the margin of victory then the recount is abandoned.
A full summary can be found here.
According to the US Election Project website, the current number of early votes cast in Florida at this election is equivalent to 41% of all 2008 votes cast. In 2008 the early vote share of all votes was 51.8%.