Want the Real “New” Voter Registration Numbers in Florida?

Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union, who I think is a fine journalist, had a piece the other day with the headline: Democratic registration all but dries up since new Florida laws.

The column has been picked up several by several outlets, including the New York Times and Rachel Maddow’s Blog, and it has sparked lively discussions in such outlets as Weasel Zippers, Hullabaloo, and Addicting Info.

But Dixon’s figures, which I discussed earlier today here, are wildly off the mark and completely misleading.

Yes, “new” voter registrations are down in Florida, but nowhere near are they as dire as Dixon’s column suggests.

My collaborator Michael Herron at Dartmouth and I have just crunched the numbers, using data from the Florida Department of State voter files created on April 1, 2012 and April 1, 2008.

According to the state’s official records, more than 155k voters registered as Democrats in 2011.  Slightly less than 138k voters registered as Republicans in 2011.

Not surprisingly, given House Bill 1355’s draconian restrictions placed on third party voter registration organizations (3PVROs), which went into effect on July 1, 2011 and frustrated the ability of groups like the League of Women Voters to sign up new voters, registration figures for both parties were down in 2011 compared to 2007 (28.1% fewer Floridians registered as Democrats in 2011 compared to 2007, and 15.5% fewer Floridians registered as Republicans in 2011 compared to 2007).

But these dampened voter registration figures are nowhere near those published in Dixon’s column.

The bottom line: More than 155 thousand voters registered as Democrats and more than 138 thousand voters registered as Republicans in Florida in 2011.  The numbers are down, but that hardly looks like “drying up” to me.