After overtaking the Florida Democratic Party in statewide voter registration in October, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) finished the year with a voter registration advantage over Democrats of more than 40,000.
Republicans’ milestone in 2021 was built on nearly a decade of steady progress. Democrats, meanwhile, secured big increases during former President Barack Obama’s two campaigns for President. Those gains began steadily eroding after the 2012 election.
End of 2021 voter registration numbers posted by the Secretary of State’s office show Florida had 5,123,799 registered Republicans, 5,080,697 Democrats and 4,083,215 voters either registered without a party affiliation or registered to one of the more than two dozen “minor” parties in Florida.
All totaled, Florida had 14,287,711 registered voters at year’s end.
The Dec. 31 numbers posted by the Secretary of State’s office give Republicans a 43,102-voter advantage over Democrats. The RPOF put out a statement Friday, based on its more up-to-date information, saying it has a 45,153-voter advantage now over the Florida Democratic Party.
Regardless, the numbers marked the first time Republicans ever have outnumbered Democrats in Florida at year’s end, at least since post-Civil War Reconstruction when Democrats took over the state.
The achievement is leading Republicans to celebrate, and to taunt Democrats.
Last year was a particularly bad year for Democrats, who struggled with the triple handicaps of the developing financial crisis, not having particularly strong marquee elected officials to match up with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s two Republican U.S. Senators, and having President Joe Biden’s popularity plummet in Florida.
“The Florida GOP is doing better than ever and that is reflected in our fundraising efforts as well as our historic increase in active voter registrations. This is an indication of the overwhelming support of our conservative policies and leadership under Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is keeping Florida free and open. That isn’t a campaign slogan, it is a reality,” said RPOF Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré.
She charged that the two leading Democratic candidates for Governor in the 2022 election, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, “are completely unremarkable if not unaccomplished.”
“Voters know that policy matters. Our conservative policies appeal to voters and the numbers speak for themselves,” she added. “As Gov. DeSantis said, ‘We were right, and they were wrong.'”
Democrats have accused Secretary of State Laurel Lee — a DeSantis appointee — of unduly going after Democrats when purging inactive voters from official active voter rolls, skewing the counts of active voters toward favoring the GOP, as much for image as anything.
“I think it’s worth noting that when factoring in inactive voters Democrats still have a registration lead,” said FDP spokesman Grant Fox.
But the numbers of inactive voters dropped from active voter rolls do not tell the whole story.
The latest numbers continue trends that have been steady since 2012, with both Republicans and independents gaining on Democrats’ voter numbers every year. At the end of 2012, there were 558,272 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Florida. Republicans have whittled away at that Democratic advantage ever since.
Still, Republicans also saw a decrease in voter registrations in 2021, which is normal in any year after a presidential election year. Overall, Florida’s voter registration declined 287,027 during the off-year. It’s just that Democrats stomached a 4% drop in their voter registrations during the year, while Republicans suffered only a 2% rollback.
The difference between a 2% drop and a 4% drop was 140,317 voters. That’s the gain Republicans have made since the end of 2020, when Democrats were still on top with a 97,215-voter advantage statewide.
Meanwhile, Florida saw an increase in 2021 in independent and minor party voters, continuing another trend.
The only county where Florida Democrats made gains during 2021 in was Seminole County — and that increase was minuscule. At one point last spring, Seminole Democrats heralded that they had flipped the county in voter registration over Republicans. But it didn’t last. While Seminole Democrats did finish the year with an improved standing compared with Seminole Republicans, they did so by just 68 voters, not quite enough to flip the county. The GOP still had a 34.5% to 34.1% voter registration advantage over Democrats on Dec. 31.
In 2021, Republicans made gains against Democrats in voter registration in all 66 of Florida’s other counties.
That included Democratic strongholds of Alachua, Broward, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, and Palm Beach counties.
Republicans also made gains in the purple counties of Calhoun, DeSoto, Duval, Franklin, Hamilton, Hendry, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia.
And Republicans made gains in their strongholds of Baker, Bay, Clay, Dixie, Gilchrist, Holmes, Lafayette, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Sumter, Walton and Washington counties.