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Flagler Voter Registrations Surge to 90%, Aiding GOP as Democrats Fall to Historic Low

| February 22, 2016

So it will. (© FlaglerLive)

So it will. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County voters may need an extra push to get to the polls. But getting registered is no longer an issue.

When the voter registration window closed last week ahead of the March 15 Florida presidential primary, three trends were starkly apparent in Flagler County: overall registrations have surged well ahead of Florida’s rate or the rate of population increase. Independents, and to a much lesser extent Republicans, have accounted for most of the surge. And Democratic registrations are at a historic low. At current trends, Independents may outnumber Democrats in six or eight years.

As of today, just under 76,000 Flagler County residents are registered to vote, a record. Of those, 28,954, or 38.2 percent, are Republican, 24,533, or 32.3 percent, are Democrats, and 20,448, or 27 percent, are Independents, with another 1,912, or 2.5 percent, belonging to smaller parties.

The Democrats’ registration rate has never been this low in Flagler County, which, until the Republican surge of the 1990s, had been, like much of Florida, mostly a Democratic county. The last time Democrats led registrations in Flagler was just ahead of the election of Barack Obama, and for a few years after that. Obama carried Flagler County in 2008. But he lost it in 2012. The gap between Democrats and Republicans has never been this wide, either, unless one goes back to the years when Democrats held a crushing advantage. Today, Republicans are riding a 4,500-voter advantage over Democrats, the equivalent of six percentage points.

Partisanship aside, the most striking number is the county’s overall registration rate, which is at or near 90 percent, a remarkable achievement by any standard, with Flagler’s registration rate surging more than 21 percent since 2009, and with more than half that increase occurring since 2014.

The Census Bureau puts the county’s 2014 population—the last numbers available—at 102,000, with 83,900 of that of voting age (18 and older). That equates to a 90 percent voter registration rate.

Flagler’s population has increased by about 10 percent since 2009, according to the Census Bureau. And Florida’s overall registration tallies have increased by just 10 percent. So much of the registration increase is a net gain attributed either to more voter engagement or more voter outreach by the Supervisor of Elections office.

Both have played a large role.

“The whole theme has been, are you election ready, because I don’t want anyone surprised when they go to the polls,” Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart said.  “I’ve been out attending voter outreach events more than ever, so we’ve had a good turnout from those as well.” Last month Lenhart’s office mailed a voter-education package to every household in the county, urging residents to get registered. It was a first for Flagler County, paid for with a federal grant. Voters sent back some 600 responses from that within the first week of it going out with updates to registrations.

In every way, a commanding advantage for Republicans in Flagler County, and continuing decreases for Democrats.

State Division of Elections figures show that registrations are taking place in the largest numbers at the tax collectors’ offices, especially when people get or change their driver’s license. In January 2015, for example, 610 people in Flagler registered through the tax collector’s office, representing 90 percent of all new registrations.

In comparison, just 6 percent did so by mail, 2 percent at public libraries, none through direct recruiters, and 5 percent did so at the Supervisor of Elections’ Office. At the time, the Flagler supervisor’s office was not a friendly or particularly place, and was just emerging from six years under Kimberle Weeks (who is now under felony indictment). By this January, the proportion of people registering directly through the SEO office had surged to 17 percent, while tax collector’s office registrations had fallen to 70 percent. Clearly, new leadership played a demonstrable role.

But voter excitement is also playing a role.

“Over time, over a period of years, the voter awareness in Flagler County has been very high,” Bob Updegrave, who’s led voter-registration efforts for the local Republican Party for several years, said. “We’ve had a couple of very high profile elections. In 2014, the commissioners’ races, those fellows went out and worked and drove awareness. The 2012 election generated huge interest and voter registration. This year, we have a huge Republican presidential field, lots of choices, choices from one end to the other, and Florida being a closed primary state, I believe people get it, people here really understand the need to be affiliated with a party in order to have a say.”

A closed primary means that only registered Republicans may vote in the Republican primary, and only registered Democrats may vote in the Democratic primary. Unlike in some 20 other states that have open primaries, Independents—who would otherwise get to cast a ballot in either primary—get no vote. So Independents will often switch registration ahead of a primary to have a voice. Just since December 1 in Flagler County, 1,471 voters switched party registration, Lenhart said, usually to have more of a say in the coming primary.

The net surge in registration also takes in account the biennial purging of the rolls to get rid of non-active voters and the constant paring of the rolls to keep up with deaths, people convicted of felonies (who lose their civil right to vote) and others.

flagler county voter guide

The guide went out to every household in Flagler and triggered a response of some 600 mailed in pieces within a week. Click on the image for larger view.

For example, last year, 3,015 people were removed from the registration rolls in what’s called list0-maintenance, which affects those who have not voted in four years, and who do not respond to a mailed notice about their registration. In addition, 1,144 people were removed in 2015 because of death. And in addition to that, 92 lost their privilege to vote in the same period when they were convicted as felons, two more lost their right when they were adjudicated mentally incapacitated, and one registrant was taken off the rolls for not being a U.S. citizen.

Voters may again switch registration ahead of the August primary, and then again ahead of the November general election. Registration numbers are expected to increase further between now and then, though with a 90 percent rate of registration, the county has little room for more. That’s part of the reason why Ralph Lightfoot, who chairs the Democratic Executive Committee, finds conditions for Democrats “depressing.” Though he’s been making various efforts to get more Democrats registered, there are few avenues left to find them.

“Locally it’s very difficult to mobilize the Democrats because people are relatively happy,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve been doing this for about a year, and folks don’t have a lot to complain about, so it’s difficult to get people to run.” He said at Palm Coast City Hall meetings, water rates may be increased, the pay scale for the city’s attorneys may rise substantially, yet still no one complains. “If it’s not directly impacting their taxes and if it’s not impacting them directly, nobody really cares,” he said, though the number of people who have filed to run for council seats, most of them Republicans, suggests otherwise: so far six candidates have filed to run for mayor and two for two council seats.

If Donald Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination, Lightfoot said, “Democrats will come out of the woodworks to vote against Trump.”

From the Republican perspective, there is a great deal of dissatisfaction and energy to be engaged for change, Gail Wadsworth, a long-time leader in local Republican politics—and the clerk of court, for a few more months—said. “I see frustration with where we are in this country, I see economic frustration. People don’t necessarily want anything to be taken from them,” Wadsworth said. “If they earn it, they believe they have a right to have a higher standard of living. I see an even larger thing going on here that is always attributable to the commander in chief and it’s called safety, and I don’t think people in the United States feel safe.”

Updegrave said the “Trump effect” is bringing more people to the political process, but over the longer term in Flagler, he sees the surge in Republican registrations having its roots in the 2008 Obama win in Flagler County. “If nothing else, to Republicans that had to have been a stinging reminder or a stinging rebuke, and perhaps voters woke up,” Updegrave said.

Democrats, for all their Sanders effect, are not experiencing the same engagement, in Updegrave’s view.  “I don’t hear or feel or sense that there’s a great deal of excitement about Bernie or Hilary in this race,” Updegrave said. “I think Democrats are yawning, I don’t think there’s anything on the Democrat side that would cause many voters to rush out or change their registration from Republican or NPA,” that is, no party affiliation, “to vote for one of those. Now I may be a bit biased, I’m obviously a Republican, and focus on our people.”

Updegrave may not be wrong: when the Democrats held a forum featuring stand-ins for Sanders and Clinton at the African American Cultural Society last week, just 60 people showed up.

That’s having an effect on local races, which, with the exception of the Flagler County Commission, are dominated by Republicans. “Democrats don’t think they can get elected here. That’s probably the reason why Milissa switched over,” Lightfoot said, referring to Milissa Holland, who’d long been a Democrat when she served on the county commission and ran for the state house, but switched to Republican to run for mayor of Palm Coast, even though those races are ostensibly non-partisan. (They are, though no one buys the pretense: parties still work hard to push their own candidates.)

“We’re trying to turn this around,” Lightfoot said. “We’re working on voter registration. I’m getting more people involved.”

Flagler County Voter Registration, 2003-2016

Minor Parties
Oct. 2003
March 2004
March 2005
March 2006
March 2007
March 2008
July 2008
March 2009
March 2010
March 2011
March 2012
Oct. 2012
Florida, May 2012
(Combined with NPAs)
March 2013
March 2014
March 2015
February 2016
Florida, January 2016
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26 Responses for “Flagler Voter Registrations Surge to 90%, Aiding GOP as Democrats Fall to Historic Low”

  1. YankeeExPat says:

    “As of today, just under 76,000 Flagler County residents are registered to vote.”

    “The Census Bureau puts the county’s 2014 population—the last numbers available—at 102,000, with 83,900 of that of voting age (18 and older). That equates to a 90 percent voter registration rate.”

    If all the Eligible voters went to the polls (100 percent participation) the National Guard would be called in to quell the uprising. Political planning and elections in Flagler County are tailored for high turnout on presidential years and low turnout on all others.

  2. ScotchRox says:

    My wife and I recently changed our registration from Independent to Republican.


  3. Mark says:

    Maybe the illegal immigrants are leaving our great county.

  4. I/M/O says:

    Mr. Lighfoot….a whooping 24% of the republican primary vote in South Carolina consisted of cross over Democrat voters.

    Donald Trump won 33% of that crossover vote.

    Ted Cruz won 27% of that crossover vote.

    Marco Rubio won 17% of that crossover vote.

    Kasich, Bush and Carson split the remaining 33% of the Democrat crossover vote.

    So obvious lyu it was noit an anti Trump vote.

    You think it’s going to be different in Florida?

  5. PCer says:

    A win for Trump in the primaries is a win for Hillary in the general. Thank you for your support.

  6. CL says:

    Do independents not know that they cannot vote in the Presidential primary in March at all? And Trump has 4 bankruptcies and 11 (ELEVEN) failed businesses. His relatives were nazi supporters and he tried to seize homeowners’ lands in Scotland in order to build his golf course there. Nearly everything Trump does is a failure, unless he sells his companies, “leases” his name out, and sues people over nothing. Right now he’s getting sued in West Palm Beach. Trump is a fraud, an actor who uses “See Spot Run” type language (remember those reader books in elementary school? Thank goodness I never had to use them nor my children). He is a meglomaniac and the tea baggers here in Flagler couldn’t care less if our government falls and fails. Vote democratic and let’s bring good paying jobs back to this country. Vote Bernie.

  7. CL says:

    Now for those who say “4 bankruptcies is not much, and 11 business failures aint bad” try telling that to the truly successful businessmen like Warren Buffet (Bershire Hathaway), Dave (Wendy’s), even the libertarian Koch Brothers. Trump is a LOSER and will make America a LOSER.

  8. Knightwatch says:

    Sh%T!! The crazies have us surrounded. Good news, most are too old to get up off the couch and vote.

  9. Jack Howell, PhD says:

    This is a good thing. I can’t believe that knowing what we know about Hilary Clinton, she will win the vote in Flagler. If anything, she should be sent to prison. I can only pray that the FBI completes its investigation and she goes to trial. I can’t believe that the Democratic faithful hold her in high esteem. Wake Up Democrats!

  10. Outsider says:

    Really, Trumps “relatives” were “Nazi supporters?” Well, that does it for me…..I’m voting for Hillary!

  11. Neverwas says:

    Jack, I believe they have enough evidence against her collected already. I think they are holding off on prosecution for an opportune time to destroy the democratic parties run when she get the nomination.

  12. Mark says:

    Gonna be hard to rule from prison.

  13. alp says:

    @Dr. Howell

    You are watching too much Fox news or listening to Jeb Bush’s lies.

    “Actually, Clinton is not under FBI investigation. The inquiry to which Bush refers revolves around the private email server Clinton used while serving as secretary of state. And it is not a criminal investigation.”

    Excerpt from: Politifact

  14. alp says:

    Trump may be getting the Republican nomination, but his overall unfavorable rating is at 60% Nationwide Clinton beats Trump in almost every poll. Flagler County may be lagging in Democratic registrations, but should Trump emerge as the Republican presidential candidate, it will almost certainly bring out the now sleeping Democrats in Flagler County. However if the Flagler Democratic Party doesn’t learn from its past losses and just keeps doing the same old, same old they will miss the surge.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Outsider says:

    February 22, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Really, Trumps “relatives” were “Nazi supporters?” Well, that does it for me…..I’m voting for Hillary!

    Relatives??? how distant and how true?? BUT you will vote for a person who was not only a supporter of a sexuial predator but did all she could to destroy those who spoke the truth about the sexuial predator!!!!

  16. Gkimp says:


    For every article you find stating this is not a criminal investigation of Hillary I,can find at least one more likely 10 stating it is, unfortunately we can no longer use The media as proof of anything. Most all news organizations are agenda driven these days. So I rely on independent facts. #1 being: The FBI does not conduct security checks. The FBI conducts criminal investigations. But, the Justice Department is also agenda driven, so the likely good of an actual prossecution is low.

  17. Truth on Trump says:

    First, yes, Trump is an amazingly failed businessman. In addition to the bankruptcies (not Trump himself, but businesses that he managed), Trump is worse than average.

    If he took his “small” loan in 1968 and his $40,000,000 ($40M, with a “m”) inheritance in 1974 and invested it in the stock market, he would be worth roughly the same as he is now (calculated including fees, living expenses, etc — also, there is a $500,000,000 difference in final worth for investing Jan 1974 vs Aug 1974). Worse, if he invested in 1982, when the economy was recovering, he’d be worth somewhere between $11.3B and $20B (that’s $20B, billion, $20,000,000,000), compared to his current worth of $3B – $4B (depending on the valuation of his assets).

    Overall, Trump is roughly average, since the early ’80s he is far worse than average.

  18. Harrison H. McDonald says:

    Flagler County has a large population of “The Great Generation” and their children. Thanks to god we are not overwhelmed with Millennials.

  19. alp says:


    Politifact is a trusted, well known website. They take no political side and document what they say. Visit the website and check it out..

  20. Sherry says:

    Trump’s Connection with the MOB and also paying ZERO Income Taxes on hundreds of thousands for a couple of years during the 70’s. . . take a read of 21 questions from Pulitzer Award winning David Johnston:

    I have covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years — including breaking the story that in 1990, when he claimed to be worth $3 billion but could not pay interest on loans coming due, his bankers put his net worth at minus $295 million. And so I have closely watched what Trump does and what government documents reveal about his conduct.

    Reporters, competing Republican candidates, and voters would learn a lot about Trump if they asked for complete answers to these 21 questions.

    So, Mr. Trump…

    1. You call yourself an “ardent philanthropist,” but have not donated a dollar to The Donald J. Trump Foundation since 2006. You’re not even the biggest donor to the foundation, having given about $3.7 million in the previous two decades while businesses associated with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment gave the Trump Foundation $5 million. All the money since 2006 has come from those doing business with you. How does giving away other people’s money, in what could be seen as a kickback scheme, make you a philanthropist?

    2. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman successfully sued you, alleging your Trump University was an “illegal educational institution” that charged up to $35,000 for “Trump Elite” mentorships promising personal advice from you, but you never showed up and your “special” list of lenders was photocopied from Scotsman Guide, a magazine found at any bookstore.

    Why did you not show up?

    3. You claimed The Learning Annex paid you a $1 million speaking fee, but on Larry King Live, you acknowledged the fee was $400,000 and the rest was the promotional value.Since you have testified under oath that your public statements inflate the value of your assets, can voters use this as a guide, so whenever you say $1, in reality it is only 40 cents?

    4. The one-page financial statement handed out at Trump Tower when you announced your candidacy says you’ve given away $102 million worth of land.

    Will you supply a list of each of these gifts, with the values you assigned to them?

    5. The biggest gift you have talked about appears to be an easement at the Palos Verdes, California, golf course bearing your name on land you wanted to build houses on, but that land is subject to landslides and is now the golf course driving range.

    Did you or one of your businesses take a tax deduction for this land that you could not build on and do you think anyone should get a $25 million tax deduction for a similar self-serving gift?

    6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.

    Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?

    7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.

    If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?

    8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.


    9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site

    How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?

    10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.

    What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?

    11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.

    Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?

    12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.

    Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?

    13. You were the first person recommended for a casino license by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, which opposed all other applicants or was neutral. Later it came out in official proceedings that you had persuaded the state to limit its investigation of your background.

    Why did you ask that the investigation into your background be limited?

    14. You were the target of a 1979 bribery investigation. No charges were filed, but New Jersey law mandates denial of a license to anyone omitting any salient fact from their casino application.

    Why did you omit the 1979 bribery investigation?

    15. The prevailing legal case on license denials involved a woman, seeking a blackjack dealer license, who failed to disclose that as a retail store clerk she had given unauthorized discounts to friends.

    In light of the standard set for low-level license holders like blackjack dealers, how did you manage to keep your casino license?

    16. In 1986 you wrote a letter seeking lenient sentencing for Joseph Weichselbaum, a convicted marijuana and cocaine trafficker who lived in Trump Tower and in a case that came before your older sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry of U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, who recused herself because Weichselbaum was the Trump casinos and Trump family helicopter consultant and pilot.

    Why did you do business with Weichselbaum, both before and after his conviction?

    17. Your first major deal was converting the decrepit Commodore Hotel next to Grand Central Station into a Grand Hyatt. Mayor Abe Beame, a close ally of your father Fred, gave you the first-ever property tax abatement on a New York City hotel, worth at least $400 million over 40 years.

    Since you boast that you are a self-made billionaire, how do you rationalize soliciting and accepting $400 million of welfare from the taxpayers?

    18. You say that your experience as a manager will allow you to run the federal government much better than President Obama or Hillary Clinton. On Fortune Magazine’s 1999 list of the 496 most admired companies, your casino company ranked at the bottom – worst or almost worst in management, use of assets, employee talent, long-term investment value, and social responsibility. Your casino company later went bankrupt.

    Why should voters believe your claims that you are a competent manager?

    19. Your Trump Plaza casino was fined $200,000 for discriminating against women and minority blackjack dealers to curry favor with gambler Robert Libutti, who lost $12 million, and who insisted he never asked that blacks and women be replaced.

    Why should we believe you “love” what you call “the blacks” and the enterprise you seek to lead would not discriminate again in the future if doing so appeared to be lucrative?

    20. Public records (cited in my book Temples of Chance) show that as your career took off, you legally reported a negative income and paid no income taxes as summarized below:

    Income: $76,210
    Tax Paid: $18,714

    Income: $24,594
    Tax Paid: $10,832

    Income: $118,530
    Tax Paid: $42,386

    Income: ($406,379)
    Tax Paid: $0

    Income: ($3,443,560)
    Tax Paid: $0

    Will you release your tax returns? And if not, why not?

    21. In your first bestselling book, The Art of the Deal, you told how you had not gotten much work done on your first casino, so you had crews dig and fill holes to create a show. You said one director of your partner, Holiday Inns, asked what was going on. “This was difficult for me to answer, but fortunately this board member was more curious than he was skeptical,” you wrote.

    Given your admission that you used deception to hide your failure to accomplish the work, why should we believe you now

  21. Robjr says:

    Hate, bigotry, racism and sexism is alive and well.
    Count all the votes Trump gets here in Flagler county.

  22. Just me says:

    Robjr says:

    February 23, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Hate, bigotry, racism and sexism is alive and well.
    Count all the votes Trump gets here in Flagler county.

    This is true but the article only states that the Ds have not had as many new voters Not that the Hate, bigotry, racism and sexism of the demacrat party is gone.

  23. Sheila Skipp Zinkerman says:

    In the spirit of Quintus: RISE AND SHINE FLAGLER DEMS! (Yes! I AM SHOUTING!) It’s time to exit that stealth Trojan Horse and do battle! (Yes!!! I am overusing exclamation points!!!)
    Ask yourselves a question “Are you happy and content as Ralph Lightfoot states?” if so, take a selfie for remembrance because your happiness will soon dissipate if you allow Republicans to win local, state, and National Elections. Just listen to their current, dangerous rhetoric.
    History shows that when Democrats care enough to vote – they WIN. Democrats are working hard in Flagler County and the links below are proof. Let this be a CALL TO ACTION. Attend scheduled rallies; volunteer; tell your Democratic friends and family to vote; make certain they are registered for the General Election; encourage NPA and Independents to change affiliation to Democrat; and notify Ralph Lightfoot / Democratic Executive Committee if you – or anyone you know want to run for office. There are several well-paying positions that need a challenger.
    “Use Your Voice; Use Your Vigor; Use Your VOTE.” R. Reich
    Find Active Democrats HERE:

    * Democratic Party of Flagler County “Like” us on Facebook Page
    * Democratic Executive Committee
    * Democratic Progressive Caucus of Flagler County “Like” us on Facebook Page
    * Flagler County for Hillary “Like” us on Facebook Page
    * Flagler Democrats for Bernie
    AS A BONUS! There is an energized organization of socially conscious Democrats called Florida Friends for Obama who tirelessly fight against social injustice. Meet their membership at our rallies!
    Come on Flagler County DEMS. Stand with us.

  24. alp says:


    You clearly did not check out:

    Comparing conservative Newsmax with Politifact does make me laugh. But I will not argue the point any further.

  25. Gkimp says:

    Thanks, you came back arround to my orginal point, you can’t count on any of the media, they don’t report the news anymore, then try to change opinions. And you found a site that agrees with you, and for everyone you find, I can find at least one to support my opinions. Posting a link doesn’t make anything a fact. Mic drop!

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