How Florida’s electorate has changed since the 2016 election

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Biggest gains: Republicans, Hispanics, Miami-Dade County.

How has Florida’s electorate changed since the 2016 presidential election?

An examination of voter registration data in the election book closing reports for the 2016 and 2020 General elections shows Florida now has 14,441,869 registered voters. That’s a 12% increase over 2016 when there were 12,863,773. There now are 5,303,254 registered Democrats, 5,169,012 registered Republicans, and 3,919,603 others.

Republicans increased their party’s voter registration rolls by 618,000. Democrats added 426,000. The combined rolls of independent voters and those in third parties increased by 534,000. The Democrats’ portion of Florida’s electorate shrank to 37% while Republicans grew to 36%. In 2016 Democrats’ advantage was 38% to 35%.

Statewide racial breakdowns:

The voter registration data compiled and posted by the Florida Division of Elections for book closings for the 2016 and 2020 General Elections detail the declared race and ethnicity of voters by party and by county. The answers are self-definitions, and voters may decline to answer that question.

— Statewide, 61% of Florida’s 2020 voters said they are White. That’s down from 64% in 2016. Another 13% identified as Black. That’s unchanged. Another 17% identified as Hispanic, up from 16% in 2016. Another 2% said Asian American or Pacific Islander, and less than 1% said Native American. Those are unchanged. The rest of the 2020 General Election voters said multiracial, other, or declined to answer the question.

— Hispanic voters most significantly increased their clout in Florida’s electorate since the 2016 General Election. The greatest increase of Hispanic voters came as independent or minor party voters. Beyond that, Democrats signed up more than did Republicans. There are 475,000 more Hispanic voters this year than there were in 2016. The independent rolls increased by about 201,000, Democrats by 149,000, and Republicans by 126,000.

Hispanic voters now make up 18% of the Democratic Party’s voter rolls, up from 16% in 2016. They make up 12% of the Republican Party’s rolls, up from 11%.

— Florida has 215,000 more Black voters this year than in 2016. Almost all of that increase came as Democrats or independent voters. The Democrats’ rolls increased by 133,000 Black voters. Republicans increased statewide by just 8,000 Black voters.

Today Black voters make up about the same proportions of the major parties they did in 2016. They constitute 29% of the Democratic Party’s base. They make up just over 1% of the Republican Party statewide voter registration rolls.

— Florida has 611,000 more White voters now than in 2016. Most of the increase went to Republicans. Democrats increased their registration by 41,000 more White voters. Republicans increased ten times as much, by 417,269.

Now White voters make up about 46% of the Democratic Party, down from 49% in 2016. White voters make up 81% of the Republican Party, down from 83%.

County increases:

— The Republican Party’s biggest overall county gain was in Miami-Dade County, where the party’s voter rolls increased by 56,000 since 2016. Republicans increased by 37,000 in Palm Beach County, 28,000 in Pasco County, 26,000 in Polk County, 25,000 in Lee County, 25,000 in Hillsborough County, and 22,000 in Volusia County.

— The Democratic Party’s biggest gain also was in Miami-Dade, where the party’s registration increased by 48,000. Democrats increased in Orange County by 45,000, Palm Beach County by 44,000, Broward County by 36,000, Duval County by 36,000, Hillsborough County by 30,000, and Pinellas County by 23,000.

— Democrats actually saw their voter registration totals decrease since 2016 in dozens of low-population, mostly North and Panhandle counties. Democrats saw their voter registration totals reduced by 3,300 voters in Jackson County, 3,000 in Putnam County, 2,400 in Suwannee County, and 2,000 in Taylor County. Republicans managed to grow their rolls in all 67 counties since 2016.

The biggest net gains:

Where did one party increase its voter registration much more than did the rival party since the 2016 General Election?

— Republicans improved their voter registration positions compared to Democrats by 20,000 voters in Volusia County, 18,000 in Pasco County, 15,000 in Polk County, 14,000 in Marion County, 13,000 in Citrus County, 12,000 in Brevard County, and 10,000 in Hernando County.

— Democrats improved their positions compared with Republicans by 35,000 voters in Orange County, 23,000 in Broward County, 19,000 in Duval County, 12,000 in Seminole County, 8,000 in Alachua County, 7,000 in Palm Beach County, and 7,000 in Osceola County.

Red, blue, or purple counties:

— Among counties with at least 50,000 registered voters, the reddest is Walton County, where Republicans now hold more than a 42 percentage-point advantage over Democrats in voter registration, 61% to 18%. Other very red counties include Santa Rosa County, where Republicans hold a 40-point advantage; Nassau County, 37 points; Okaloosa County, 37 points; Sumter County, 33 points; Clay County, 32 points; and Bay County, 30 points.

—The bluest county with at least 50,000 registered voters is Broward, where Democrats hold a 29 percentage-point advantage. Other deep-blue counties include Leon County, where Democrats hold a 27 point lead over Republicans; Alachua County, 22 points; Osceola County, 19 points; Orange County, 18 points; Palm Beach County, 13 points; and Miami-Dade County, 13 points.

— There are only a handful of truly purple counties in Florida, among those with 50,000 or more voters. Republicans have less than a 1 percentage-point advantage in voter registration in Seminole County. Republicans are up by 2 points in Polk County, 5 points in Volusia County, and 8 points in Monroe County. Democrats have an advantage of 1 percentage-point in Pinellas County, 6 points in St. Lucie County, 6 points in Duvall County, and 8 points in Hillsborough County.

County gains by race

— Between the 2016 election and now, Republicans added 46,000 Hispanic voters to their Miami-Dade County rolls, while Democrats added 28,000 in Miami-Dade. Democrats added 16,000 Hispanic voters in Broward County, while Republicans added 12,000 there. Democrats added 12,000 Hispanic voters in Orange County, while Republicans added 6,000 in Orange. Democrats added 10,000 Hispanic voters in Palm Beach County, Polk County, and Hillsborough County, while Republicans added 7,000 in Palm Beach and Hillsborough and 5,000 in Polk.

— Democrats increased the number of registered Black voters on their rolls by 23,000 in Broward County, 17,000 in Duval County, 12,300 in Palm Beach County, 9,000 in Miami-Dade County, and about 8,000 each in Hillsborough and Orange counties. The best Republicans could do was increase by about 800 Black voters in Palm Beach County, 700 in Miami-Dade County, and 600 each in Broward, Duval and Hillsborough counties.

— The Republican Party increased the numbers of White voters on their rolls by more than 10,000 in 17 different counties since 2016, while Democrats managed that in only three. Tops for new White voter increases for Republicans were Palm Beach County, where the White voter count grew by 23,000; Pasco, 22,000; Polk, 19,000; Volusia 18,000; Lee, 18,000; and St. Johns, 16,000. Democrats increased their rolls by 14,000 White voters in Orange County, 12,000 in Pinellas County, and 10,000 in Palm Beach County.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


One comment

  • PeterH

    October 26, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Here’s another statistic….. 60% of Florida’s residents live paycheck to paycheck. Something to think about when there is a hurricane evacuation or global warming forces 30 million residents to permanently leave Florida.

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