Voters rush to register for presidential primary

Posted at 6:53 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 19:02:47-05

The deadline to register or change party affiliation for the March 15 presidential primary is today, resulting in thousands of Bay area residents rushing until the last minute to make sure their voice is heard next month.

Chuck Lowe told ABC Action News he changed his political party affiliation for the first time in more than a decade.

"I've been registered Independent for years and I decided to change my party to Republican," said Lowe.  "i am worried about our economy, I am worried bout the world."

Lowe is among 3,500 Hillsborough County residents who have changed their party affiliation since January 1.

Hillsborough County voting records show both the Republican and Democrats gained the exact number, roughly 1,500.

"We received the same amount of phone calls in one day, yesterday, that we did the entire month of January," said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.

Political analysts believe this reflects the competitiveness of the upcoming election and the rising awareness of the American public.

"People are realizing, 'Hey, I registered NPA, that means i don't have a voice," explained Mickey Castor with the Hillsborough County Women's League of Voters.


Florida transplants like Michelle Johnson are learning Florida is a closed primary state, meaning, if you are registered as a Republican or Democrat, there is nothing for you to vote on come March 15.

Johnson, who intends to vote for Hillary Clinton, decided instead of mailing in her registration, she would walk it into the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office in-person.

"Anytime an election come up it is very important for me, I always vote," explained Johnson.

Johnson has a lot of company in the new voter category.

Polk County election supervisors report there are roughly 5,200 newly registered voters since January 1.

In 2012, during that same time period, there were just under 1,700 newly registered voters.

"The stakes are very high as every one knows in this presidential season, it is more competitive than it has been in many many years," Castor said.

The impact of new voters and voters changing their party affiliations is not yet clear.

But Castor feels one thing is clear in this election thus far.

"If you don't vote March the 15 in Florida then you don't have any leg to stand on when you say, 'Oh, I don't like the choices i have in November,'" she said.