Republicans make Florida history, pass Democrats in voter registration

Gov. DeSantis said on Friday morning that the GOP had struck the milestone they’d been approaching since 2012.
The voter registration gap between Democrats and Republicans had been narrowing each year since 2012.
The voter registration gap between Democrats and Republicans had been narrowing each year since 2012. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Nov. 5, 2021|Updated Nov. 5, 2021

Florida Republicans have officially reached a milestone they’ve been trending toward for nearly a decade — outnumbering registered Florida Democrats for the first time in state history.

Gov. Ron DeSantis touted the achievement for Republicans at the National Conference of State Legislatures Friday morning.

“Today for the first time in the history of Florida we’ve now overtaken Democrats,” DeSantis said to applause, then joking that Republicans would have won the New Jersey governor’s race if all the Republicans hadn’t moved to Florida.

Voter registration information from Florida’s Division of Elections only reflects numbers through August of this year. But state parties often have more recent data than what’s provided to the public, combing through it weekly from each county.

DeSantis has financially backed the party’s voter registration effort, donating $2 million, according to Politico.

In 2008, assisted by the campaign of former President Barack Obama and his popularity, Florida Democrats had an advantage of nearly 700,000 voters over registered Republicans.

But every year since 2012, the gap between registered Democrats and Republicans has narrowed. As of this September, Democrats only had about 24,000 more voters registered.

The Republican Party of Florida’s executive director, Helen Aguirre Ferré, said on Friday that the governor’s policies have pushed people to the party. She also said previously that Democrat’s messaging has driven voters to Republicans, especially Hispanic and Latino voters as of late who have concerns about socialism.

“The level of enthusiasm in support of registering Republicans is unprecedented, and this is a true milestone moment in Florida’s history,” Ferré said.

Ferré also said in September that despite the growing edge Republicans have, they wouldn’t be kicking up their feet. With the number of new residents coming into Florida daily, the party will continue to drive their message and push registration.

Voter registration was one of the few political advantages state Democrats had, but Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz previously said that he’s still optimistic.

Diaz ran on the idea that state Democrats needed better infrastructure and acknowledged they have failed to engage with voters year-round before. Instead, Diaz said he wants to nurture a voter registration effort within the party instead of relying on outside campaigns or nonprofit groups.

Third-party voter registration groups, like the League of Women Voters, face greater hurdles after DeSantis signed an elections bill that obligates the groups to tell a registrant their form may not be returned on time. They also must tell a registrant how to register to vote online.

Despite signing that bill into law just six months ago, DeSantis earlier in the week said he wanted another package of election reforms, including the creation of a state office to investigate election fraud.