Voter turnout jumps 10 percent in Collier, 5 percent in Lee compared to last midterm

— The percentage of residents who cast ballots statewide was usual for a midterm election, but Collier County’s voter turnout increased more than 10 percent — despite fewer voters registered in this year.

It also was among the top eight vote-getting counties statewide.

Of the 180,674 registered to vote in Collier, 104,303 residents cast ballots Tuesday night, a total of 57.7 percent. During the 2006 midterm election, however, there were more registered voters, 186,236, but fewer people showed up at polling places, just 47.08 percent.

This year, Collier saw an increase of 16,630 voters over 2006.

It could have been that Naples voters flocked to polls for Republican governor candidate Rick Scott, who lives in Naples and narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Alex Sink. However, Collier Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections Timothy Durham attributed much of the boost to early voting by Republicans in general.

“It is too early to know about election day voting, but the data on early voting and absentee voting is a bit extraordinary regarding party participation,” Durham said. “Roughly, Republicans outnumber Democrats in Collier County by a 2:1 ratio. They outvoted Democrats by a 3:1 ratio in early voting and a 4:1 ratio in absentee voting.”

Lee County also saw a jump, but it wasn’t as significant as Collier’s. Of the 347,207 registered in Lee, 52.91 percent cast ballots, a win for all Republicans. That’s compared with a 47.67 percent turnout in 2006, when there were 20,274 fewer voters.

Collier trailed just seven of the state’s 67 counties, according to the Florida Division of Elections, which showed the highest turnout was in Sumter, at 65 percent.

Department of State Spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis said the 48 percent turnout statewide — out of about 11.2 million registered voters — was “roughly the same” as 2006, when 47 percent voted.

In comparison, a presidential race ups those numbers. They jumped to 75 percent statewide, when President Barack Obama won and Republican John McCain garnered more votes in Collier and Lee counties.

Statewide, there are 4 million voters registered as Republicans, 4.6 million Democrats, 2 million with no party affiliation and 360,000 under various parties.

Nationally, Americans voted in higher numbers than in the 2006 midterm elections, spurred by anger over the recession and closely contested races in several large states.

Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, said competitive races featuring tea party-backed candidates in Florida drew higher turnout, as they did in Texas and Delaware.

Tea party favorite Marco Rubio won a three-way Senate seat over Gov. Charlie Crist, who ran as an independent, and Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek. And Scott, a multimillionaire Naples businessman backed by the tea party, narrowly won.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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