In a speech at the National Conference of State Legislatures Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that Republicans have surpassed Democrats in Florida voter registration numbers for the first time in the state’s history.

“Today, and it’ll probably be fully publicized very soon, today for the first time in the history of Florida we’ve now overtaken Democrats,” DeSantis said. “There are more registered Republicans in Florida than Democrats.”

“It’s absolutely a monumental day,” said RPOF Chairman Joe Gruters. “Basically it’s a landmark day for Florida. It’s the first time in state history there are more registered Republicans than registered Democrats.”

However, Democrats say the Republicans are playing loose with the numbers and that the Florida Division of Elections has been interpreting electoral roll rules to manipulate the numbers.

That most recent report from the Florida Department of Elections shows Democrats with 24,000 more registered voters than Republicans. However, the numbers, which Republicans are citing, are due for release in December. Political parties have access to early voter registration data ahead of official releases.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz, recently told POLITICO that their voter registration program was just gearing up in September, and that the party has 20,000 new registered voters not yet reflected in the state figures.

The voter registration numbers over the last 12 years has been significantly trending towards Republicans. In 2008, Democrats had a voter registration advantage of approximately 660,000. By 2018 the advantage was down to 263,000 and in 2020 the number fell to 134,000.

Politico has reported that DeSantis has been providing financial support for the voter registration efforts with a $2 million donation to the Republican Party earmarked for registration activities.

“This did not happen overnight,” said RPOF Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré. “In the 2018 midterms, Florida Democrats had an advantage of 265,251 and since his inauguration in 2019, Governor DeSantis has been laser focused on overtaking Democrats in voter registration.”

David Byler, a Washington Post analyst, attributed the change in voter registration numbers to two demographic shifts.

First, Byler notes that “over the past 50 years, Florida’s smaller cities and towns have become powerful magnets for middle-aged parents and retirees from other states. These older migrants want low taxes, affordable housing and warm weather all year — so they’re pouring into low-cost counties, away from the major cities.” Between 1988 and 2020, the numbers indicate that Republicans added 1.5 million votes outside the major metros compared to the 1.1 million that Democrats added in Miami during the same time period.

And second, Byler highlights the impact of the Latino vote.

Byler states Democrats do well with Latinos in other states in part because they routinely win Mexican Americans — the largest Latino subgroup in the United States. But in Florida, a majority of Latino voters trace their roots to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and a number of different countries in South and Central America and these voters are not overwhelmingly Democratic.

Despite the reasons or the exact voter registration numbers, it is clear that Florida is trending toward the Republican party. So much so, that there is reporting that indicates the Democratic candidates seeking to unseat DeSantis might not get much help from national Democrats.

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Steve Stewart is the Managing Editor and a contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to sstewart@floridacapitalstar.com.
Image “DeSantis Speaks on Policy” by Ron DeSantis.