Gulf County sees high voter turnout in 2022
In 2022, Gulf County saw its highest voter turnout in a midterm election since at least 2007 (when records began to be digitized), even with turnout statewide being lower than expected.
About 61.7 percent of Gulf County voters cast a ballot during early voting, by mail or on Election Day — up about a little less than three and a half percent from four years ago and nearly seven percent from eight years ago.
“That’s fantastic turnout for a midterm election,” said Gulf County Supervisor of Election John Hanlon.
“You expect a good turnout on the presidential election years, but usually speaking, a midterm, you’re lucky if you get in the 40s,” Hanlon said.
While it’s not unusual to see a voter turnout of upwards of 65 or 70 percent during a presidential election year, turnout during the midterms tends to hover between 45 and 55 percent nationwide.
“It can be difficult to say what will make people turn out for one election over another,” said Hanlon. “It’s never quite so clear cut.”
“But clearly, there were races that people felt very motivated to vote in.”
Gulf County voters had the opportunity to vote in several high profile statewide races this year, including the race for governor and a U.S. Senate contest.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was a heavy favorite over Democrat Charlie Crist going into Election Day, but Florida hasn’t seen a gubernatorial race with such a distinctive victory since 1982, when then-Gov. Bob Graham won re-election by more than 29 percentage points. DeSantis won by more than 19 points and lost in only five Democratic strongholds — Alachua, Broward, Gadsden, Leon and Orange counties.
Republicans took a notable lead in the state’s U.S. congressional races as well.
Through much of the campaign, U.S. Senate candidate Val Demings appeared to be the Democrats’ best hope for a big win.
On Election Night, Republican incumbent Marco Rubio crushed Demings by more than 16 percentage points and lost in only six counties — Alachua, Broward, Gadsden, Leon, Orange and Palm Beach — as he won his third term as a senator.
But Gulf County’s turnout significantly outpaced the state’s average for 2022 — 53.75 percent, which was lower than expected.
Though only one local race appeared on the ballot in Gulf County, that for District 2’s county commissioner, local voters were able to cast their votes in one of the state government’s most contested races.
State Senate District 3, which encompasses Gulf County, was considered to be a key race for both Republican and Democratic voters going into 2022.
The contest pitted incumbent Democrat Loranne Ausley, who comes from a family of high profile Tallahassee politicians and lawyers, against political newcomer and former professional football player Corey Simon, a Republican.
The seat was considered to be one of the Senate Democrats’ most vulnerable going into the General Election and a key opportunity for Republicans to achieve gains in the Florida Senate.
Simon won the District 3 race by nearly 6 points, helping to propel Senate Republicans to a 28-12 vote “supermajority,” which, for procedural reasons, give the GOP near-total power to pass their priorities.
Voter turnout was higher than the state average in all 13 of the counties represented in State Senate District 3
Gulf County voters also cast their ballots in the race for Florida’s U.S. congressperson for District 2, a unique contest that featured two incumbents due to the statewide redistricting that occurred earlier this year.
The race for Congressional District 2 was the embodiment of the legal controversy surrounding Florida’s new congressional maps drawn by the Governor’s Office, unprecedented in recent Florida history.
Republican Neal Dunn and Democrat Al Lawson were both elected to Congress in 2016 under court-drawn maps — Dunn in CD 2 and Lawson in an iteration of Florida’s 5th Congressional District that will go extinct this year.
Dunn defeated Lawson by almost 20 points, a resounding victory.