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Party Leaders Work To Energize Voters In Bay County

Tan building with green roof and  5 cars parked in front with 5 cars parked out front
Valerie Crowder
Voters head to the Glenwood Community Center in Panama City to cast their ballots on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020 - the second day of in-person voting in Bay County.

Terry Cypher is one of several GOP volunteers who’ve been busy at the local party headquarters, passing out campaign signs, T-shirts, bumper stickers and flags to the region’s supporters for the last several months.

“We’re out of flags. We’re just about out of our yard signs,” Cypher said. “I think we’ve gone through something like six thousand signs.”

She says residents from neighboring counties have taken “truckloads” of Trump campaign signs to place across the region. “The response has been outstanding,” Cypher said. “This is a Red county. That’s just the way it is, but we hope to keep it Red.”

BayCountyGOPHeadquartersTerryCypher.jpg
Valerie Crowder
Terry Cypher, a GOP volunteer, gets ready for the presidential debate watch party at the Bay County Republican Party headquarters in Panama City on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

In Bay County, registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats more than two-to-one. In 2016, Trump secured 70% of the vote in the county.

Local party organizers aren’t taking this lead for granted, said Debbie Wood, chairwoman of the Bay County Republican Executive Committee.

“Is Bay County going to stay Red? Absolutely,” Wood said. “But the concern is after Hurricane Michael, we lost a bunch of voters in the Panhandle.”

She says for months they’ve been knocking on doors, calling voters and texting reminders to cast their ballots. The party has also organized several massive Trump boat parades. Some Trump supporters in the area have put on their own campaign events.

“There have been several little car parades that have popped up - nothing to do with us,” Wood said. “People just want to show their enthusiasm and their support of the president.”

In Bay County, in-person voting began on Saturday and the polls will remain open through Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Throughout the week, voters may cast their ballots at any one of seven “super voting” sites across the county. Twice as many sites will operate on the final two days of the election. The polls are open each day 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

SuperVotingGlenwoodCommunityCenter.jpg
Valerie Crowder
Campaign signs for Joe Biden greet voters as they head to the Glenwood Community Center to cast their presidential election ballots early on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.

Local Democratic Party organizers have also been busy urging voters to cast their ballots. Every day, volunteers have been on the phones reaching out to voters without making close contact due to the pandemic, said Matt Bays, executive director of the Young Democrats of Bay County.

He says he’s seen increased enthusiasm locally on their side since President Trump won the election in 2016. “We have new people, signing up to volunteer or showing up at events,” Bays said. He says other groups, including the Democratic Women’s Club of Bay County and the Democratic Executive Committee have also seen more support.

Leading up to Election Day, party organizers have also been holding roadside rallies for Joe Biden, which have also streamed live on Facebook.

“We’d like to win. We’d love to see the county and the area turn Blue,” Bays said. “But that isn’t even the end goal at the state level. It’s keep Donald Trump’s margins down, so that the heavily Democratic stronghold can put us over the top.”

FiveThirtyEight’s latest elections forecast model suggests a Biden victory in Florida would give the former vice president a greater than 99% chance of winning the presidency.

Former Republican campaign organizer JP Ferreira plans to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate for the second time in a row. He says he left his party after Trump won the presidency, and he plans to re-register as a Republican if Trump loses this election.

Ferreira says he doesn’t think Trump has the right temperament and character to serve as commander-in-chief, but he's also not excited about Biden running for office.

“If I was confident that the election was decided one way or another, I would go find a third party or someone else,” he said. “But because it’s going to be close and Florida votes matter, I plan to vote for Joe Biden.”