DeSantis says Republicans outnumber Democrats in Florida for the first time in history

Zac Anderson
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Clipboards with registration information sit on the table at Silverspot Cinema in North Naples on Monday, June 25, 2018. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that the number of registered Republicans in Florida has surpassed Democrats for the first time in state history.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that registered Republicans have surpassed Democrats in Florida for the first time in the state's history, although official numbers aren't available yet.

"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 in a speech at a National Conference of State Legislatures event. "There are more registered Republicans in Florida than Democrats.”

DeSantis appears to be basing his claim on internal Republican Party of Florida numbers.

Florida GOP Chair Joe Gruters said the party's internal numbers indicate it is now ahead of Democrats in voter registration, but that likely won't be reflected in public data released by the Florida Division of Elections until December.

There is a lag in publicly reporting the data, Gruters said. Official November numbers still will show the GOP behind, he added, although continuing to shrink the margin against Democrats. 

“According to our numbers internally, we think that we’ve unofficially passed the Democrats,” Gruters said.

If the Florida GOP's internal tracking proves accurate, it will be a major milestone in the history of Florida politics.

“It’s monumental, it’s massive," Gruters said.

When former President Barack Obama won Florida in 2008, there were 657,775 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state.

But the GOP has steadily been chipping away at that advantage, and it seemed to be only a matter of time before Republicans overtook Democrats.

Gruters credited the shift to the governor's policies, saying he is "leading the way as a beacon of freedom and liberty," and also to an aggressive voter registration push mounted by the party and backed by funds raised by DeSantis.

"There’s been a lot of effort by a lot of people to make this happen," Gruters said. "It’s about leadership, its about the policies the governor has set, and its about the overall effort by so may people who contributed to the work it has taken to get to this point.”

The reversal of the registration advantage would be another ominous sign for Florida Democrats, who have been out of power in the state for decades and continue to face political headwinds.

Former President Donald Trump won Florida in 2016 and again in 2020, tripling his margin of victory. A Democrat hasn't served as governor of Florida in more than 20 years, and Republicans have long controlled the Legislature.

Officially, there are still 23,551 more registered Democrats in Florida than Republicans, according to the state Division of Elections. Those numbers are through Aug. 31.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz accused the GOP of engaging in "smoke and mirrors" with the voter registration figures.

“No one is denying that over the past several years Democrats have neglected to register voters at a rate that would maintain our edge," Diaz said. "However, the changes that we have been seeing recently are due more to a suspicious pattern where many more Democrats are being moved to inactive than Republican voters. Ron DeSantis seems to be proud of how many people they have kicked off the voter rolls."

Follow Herald-Tribune Political Editor Zac Anderson on Twitter at @zacjanderson. He can be reached at zac.anderson@heraldtribune.com