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Election Season Brings Third Party Confusion, Voter Turnout Into Question

Erik Hersman via Flickr

Democrats and Republicans may be used to highlight both ends of the political spectrum, but there are other parties sprinkled throughout. As election season begins to ramp up,  there may be some confusion around third parties and how it can affect voter turnout.

Last year nearly 32-hundred registered voters in Florida had their political affiliations revoked. The Independence Party of Florida was disbanded by the state, and its registrants were forced to change to “No Party Affiliation”.

Mark Earley is the Supervisor of Elections in Leon County. He explains why such a thing happens.

“Sometimes parties just disband because whoever, you know, if it’s just a small party with a small number of administrators, they just voluntarily decide to disband. We’ve also had them where there was technicality where- I think every party’s treasurer books have to be audited every year by CPA, and I’ve seen in the past where that exact requirement was not fully met,” Earley says.

Following the Independence Party, two other parties with some form of “independence” in their name disbanded as well. Earley says those most affected by this are confused voters trying to register as independent, which would actually be “No Party Affiliation”.

“There’s lots of voter confusion about what the names of these parties mean. A lot of voters I found in my years of election that they think they’re an independent voter, which really means they don’t have a party affiliation. They’re independent. But, as I just said, there is currently an Independent, with a ‘t’ at the end, Party of Florida. So they aren’t an NPA, or no party affiliation voter, they are actually an Independent voter,” Earley says.

But, party affiliation isn’t the only issue potentially affecting voter turnout in 2018.

Earley says there are large influxes of young voters in Leon County due to the college population, but because of timing and exhaustion of national news coverage, it does not translate in local elections.

“At FSU, and I think FAM and TCC, classes start August 27th. Our primary election is August 28th. Students aren’t thinking about a primary election the day after classes start. They’re thinking about where they move into, drop add, who’s in their classes, getting their books purchased, where do they go to eat? And so just the timing for primary elections really greatly impacts this younger demographic,” Earley says.

Earley, along with the Leon County Supervisor of Elections Office, has pushed for greater advertisement of local elections in order to increase voter turnout.

Andrew Quintana is a senior at Florida State University pursuing degrees in Communication Studies and Editing, Writing, & Media. Before entering WFSU's newsroom, Andrew worked with V89 Radio's News and Continuity department and interned as a staff writer for Haute Living Magazine. He enjoys Razzie nominated films and collects vinyls that are perfect for ultimate frisbee. Follow Andrew Quintana on Twitter: @AndrewLQuintana