By Taniel Shant
The Boca Raton Tribune
Without question, the 2016 Election was historic and unprecedented at almost every level in practically every state. From the Electoral College to Florida, and from Palm Beach County to Boca Raton, the following analysis of precinct data, as certified by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, and the State of Florida Division of Elections, reveals some very noteworthy and record-breaking results. It begins with statewide results for President and Senate, followed by voting results in Palm Beach County, and the City of Boca Raton.
As we know, Donald Trump is now the President, but how well did he really do statewide and in Palm Beach County? How did Floridians vote overall, in Palm Beach County, and in the City of Boca Raton in particular?
In Florida, Donald Trump defeated Hilary Clinton by 119,770 votes, 49.1% to Clinton’s 47.8%. With over 9 million votes cast statewide, overall turnout (not just President) in Florida was 74.48%, almost 20% higher than the national average of 55%, in the 2016 general election. There are many reasons why Trump defeated Clinton, in Florida and across the U.S. Depending on who you ask, the outcome can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as decreased turnout of African-Americans and Hispanics, who showed up to vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but who stayed home for Clinton in 2016. Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Florida invested heavily in a grassroots strategy that helped propel Trump. Another factor is the unpopularity of both major party nominees, as evidenced by third-party Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson’s 2.2% share of the electorate in Florida, up from 0.5% in 2012.
Meanwhile, in the Florida Senate contest, incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) defeated Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL), 52% to 44.3%. Although more ballots were cast for President than for Senate in Florida, Rubio received more votes than Trump in the Sunshine State; 4,835,191 votes for Rubio, to 4,605,515 votes for Trump, a difference of 229,676 votes. As such, Rubio received more votes than any statewide candidate ever in Florida history. Rubio also becomes the first Republican Senator in Florida to win re-election in a presidential election year.
In total, over 3.4 million registered voters in Florida did not vote for President, approximately 27%.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
What we saw play out at the state level was similar in Democrat-heavy Palm Beach County. Voters here should be pleased to know that our turnout was 74.58%, slightly higher than the state. Clinton received 55.7% of the vote in Palm Beach County, compared to 40.5% for Trump. Interestingly, support for both Clinton and Trump was less than it was for Obama and Romney in 2012, who received 58.21% and 41.18%, respectively. Again, both Trump and Clinton were deeply unpopular with Palm Beach County voters, so much so that Libertarian Gary Johnson received almost 5X the vote he received in 2012.
As expected, Murphy outperformed Rubio in Palm Beach County. However, Senator Rubio received over 15,000 more votes in Palm Beach County than Donald Trump. Another interesting statistic is the surge of Early Voting. Approximately 36% of all votes in Palm Beach County were cast during twelve days of Early Voting.
In total, 229,171 registered voters in Palm Beach County stayed home, and did not vote, about 25%.
CITY OF BOCA RATON
In the 2016 general election, the City of Boca Raton consisted of 37 precincts. Although Clinton won 20 precincts, Donald Trump actually won Boca Raton with 48.1% to Clinton’s 47.9%, a difference of 98 votes.
In total, turnout in the City of Boca Raton was 77.2%, while 14,545 registered voters did not vote
In the end, the 2016 general election was wild rollercoaster ride. Records were broken, history was made, and the pieces of the political chessboard were moved around across the nation, in the Sunshine State, and in our county. No doubt, it is time for our elected officials to govern, and get to work on behalf of the people. While there is much to be proud of as Floridians, and especially as citizens of Palm Beach County, there is a lot of work left to be done to expand voter access and information, introduce new technologies, increase voter turnout, and make voting more efficient and accurate.
PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 5
In my race for County Commission District 5 (West Boca Raton, West Boynton Beach, West Delray Beach), I fell short of my goal, with 36% of the vote. However, the 36,930 votes I did receive were the most for a Republican ever in this seat. Additionally, I raised over $50,000, the most for a Republican ever in this seat. I also won my home precinct on Election Day, and 12 overall, again the most for a Republican ever in this seat. While my opponent clearly won, her share of the electorate was actually 5% less than when she ran in 2012, despite a 9% increase in registered voters. I was able to outperform my party and break some records, prompting the Palm Beach Post to recognize the “strong turnout” for my candidacy, and I am proud of the campaign that my team and I ran.
At the end of the day, I congratulated my opponent on her re-election. This was my first run for public office. Although I was up against extremely high odds – a Democrat incumbent in a “safe” Democrat seat who raised 2.5X times what I raised – it was important to me that my first race be in the district and community in which I was raised. As I stated throughout the campaign, West Boca has been my home since 1984. Public service is about giving back to your community and helping people, and I feel that it is important that those who do run, do so first in their home communities. I met so many wonderful people in this process, and I learned a lot about the people in District 5; their concerns, the challenges families and small businesses face, and how government can improve lives. It is an experience I will carry with me forever and I am truly grateful to have had the support of so many people in my home community.
An edited version of this article originally appeared in The Boca Raton Tribune.
Taniel Shant is a resident of suburban Boca Raton, and former candidate for Palm Beach County Commission District 5. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University and Master’s Degree in Political Management from The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. You can follow him on Twitter @TanielShant.
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Managing Editor
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 289-137 to adopt H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, a bill that would pause the federal government’s current resettlement program for refugees from Syria and Iraq.
The bill requires the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to perform background checks and sign off that each refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States.”
The current policy only requires the DHS to perform background checks and takes 18-24 months to complete. The additional security checks would prolong the current process. All refugees seeking resettlement in the U.S. are first registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and those eligible are reported to DHS to begin the process.
The legislation comes on the heels of the November 13th terrorist attack in Paris, France that left 129 dead. At least one of the Paris attackers is known to have travelled from Syria to Europe through Greece, the route used by millions of migrants fleeing the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Syria and Iraq.
The House vote is a rebuke to President Obama, who threatened on Wednesday to veto the legislation. The additional security measures are “unnecessary and impractical,” the White House said. “Given the lives at stake and the critical importance to our partners in the Middle East and Europe of American leadership in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, if the president were presented with H.R. 4038, he would veto the bill.”
47 Democrats joined 242 Republicans, giving House lawmakers a veto-proof majority they hope will force the President’s hand on the issue.
In Florida, 19 of the state’s 27 Representatives voted in favor of the tougher measures, with two Democrats joining Florida’s entire Republican delegation in support of the bill.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL), a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016, voted in favor of the SAFE Act. He released the following statement after the vote: “I am deeply disappointed how divisive this debate has become. Homeland security should never be partisan and our number one priority is to always keep the American people safe. With new security considerations following the tragic and cowardly attacks in Paris last week, we must ensure that we have the strongest safeguards to certify refugees are not a threat to homeland security. This bill ensures that our entire intelligence community is on the same page without turning our backs on those fleeing violence and terror. We must put aside partisan differences to develop a comprehensive strategy that combats the threat ISIS poses to people who love freedom everywhere.”
Meanwhile, Murphy’s opponent for U.S. Senate, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) voted against the bill. Murphy “chose fear over humanity when he voted against Syrian refugees,” Grayson posted on Twitter.
Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL) is the other Florida Democrat to break ranks, stating “As the granddaughter of a Christian who came to America after fleeing religious violence, I do believe we have a role in helping peace-seeking refugees — but in light of new threats, we must strengthen our vetting process. We must be able to identify those who wish to do us harm, while continuing to offer a safe haven to those in need of refuge from war and persecution.”
Graham represents a swing district in northern Florida and narrowly won election in 2014. Her seat is expected to become safe-Republican after the Florida Supreme Court completes the redistricting process before the end of the year.
“As elected officials, we have the responsibility to do everything we can to protect our nation,” stated Armenian Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). “The SAFE Act puts in place a robust, extensive vetting and monitoring process to identify individuals who pose a security threat. It fulfills our promise to the American people that we are working diligently to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores.”
ARMENIAN AMERICANS REACT
For Armenian Americans, the issue tugs at the heartstrings as images and stories of those fleeing the violence emerge. Following the World War I Armenian Genocide, Christian Armenian orphans and other survivors were accepted into Syrian society and over the last century developed into a critical part of Syria’s multi-cultural mosaic. Some 180,000 Armenian Christians used to call Aleppo home up until a few years ago when they were driven out by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
“I fully support the resettlement of Syrian refugees, irrespective of their ethno-religious affiliation, in the U.S.,” stated Sarkis Balkhian, Advocacy Director for the Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization, who is himself an Armenian American citizen from Aleppo. “During the 4.5 years of the Syrian conflict, the United States has resettled approximately 2,000 Syrian refugees out of a total of 4.3 million. That’s a comical number,” Balkhian said. “But yesterday’s vote confirmed that 289 Representatives are oblivious about the U.S. resettlement program and the vigorous vetting process already in place. What’s worse is that it appears they have succumbed to fear and are punishing the victims of ISIS rather than ISIS itself.”
Yet, Armenian Americans seem to be equally concerned about the potential influx of radical extremists who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life.
“I am wholeheartedly opposed to our government’s current plan to bring refugees from Syria and Iraq to the United States,” stated Ani Tramblian, an Armenian American from Annandale, Virginia. “I use the term bringing, because we are literally bringing them here, using American taxpayer dollars. Our President is putting U.S. citizens in harms way and exposing us to unnecessary risk. The House was right to pause the current process and add tougher security measures especially in light of terrorist attacks in Paris, and I hope our President takes our Congress seriously,” she said.
On Wednesday night, Florida Armenians launched an online poll, admittedly unscientific. At the time of this writing, the poll finds 51% of Armenian Americans in support of accepting 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees as currently planned. 35% of Armenian Americans oppose accepting refugees from Syria and Iraq, while 13% agree with the House measure and support a pause in the current resettlement program, according to the Florida Armenians poll.
The Florida Armenians poll on Syria refugees will close on Friday at midnight.