The Last Word on Voter Registration Numbers in Florida

On December 31, 2012, a month and change after President Obama’s re-election when he carried Florida a second time, of the 12.6m registered voters in Florida (including Active, Inactive, and Pre-registered 16 & 17 year-olds ), Democrats comprised 40%, No Party Affiliates (NPAs) made up 21%, and Republicans accounted for 35% of the electorate.

Flash-forward to August 31, 2016. Democrats now make up only 38%, NPAs are up to 24%, and Republicans continue to comprise roughly 35% of the overall statewide electorate, which now weighs in at a hefty 13.7m registered voters.

And there was much rejoicing among Republicans…as the gap between registered Democrats and Republicans had narrowed, from roughly 595k to just 419k of all Active, Inactive, and Pre-registered voters on the statewide voter rolls, as of August 31, 2016.

But as I’ve tirelessly Tweeted and conversed with the media, this narrowing (by 176k voters) does not mean that Republicans have out-registered Democrats over the past 3 1/2 years.

As I’ve repeatedly shown, Democrats have actually out-registered Republicans over this period of time. 

Below I report the 2.32m newly registered voters, by party, of those who registered between January 1, 2013 and August 31, 2016 and who are still in the voter file. These are not voters who registered prior to January 1, 2013 and who subsequently changed their party registrations. No, these are NEWLY registered voters over the 3 1/2 years as of August 31, 2016.

fl-2013-2016aug-new-registrations-by-party

As the table shows, of the 2.32m voters who registered during the 44 month period and who are in the statewide Florida voter file (as of August 31, 2016), 31% are registered as Democrats, 38% are NPAs, and 28% are Republicans.

In real numbers, over 80k more Democrats than Republicans are in the voter file who registered during the 3 1/2 year period. More precisely, for those of you who really like facts, as of August 31, 2016, there are 80,329 more Democrats who registered since January 1, 2013 than Republicans who registered over the same period of time and who are in the statewide voter file as of August 31, 2016.

So, with Democrats out-pacing Republicans on new registrations over the past 44 months, how is it possible that the the registration gap between the Democratic and Republican parties has closed by some 176k registered voters, with the relative percentage of Republicans growing and the percentage of Democrats decreasing?

The main reason is that the attrition rate over the past 44 months of previously registered Democrats is larger than that of Republicans who were registered prior to January 1, 2013. Some 1.24m voters have ‘exited’ the voter file over the 3 1/2 years.  Some 514.9k Democrats who were registered prior to 2012 are no longer on the rolls; 435.8k Republicans who were on the books back on December 31, 2012, are no longer registered to vote.

That’s a Democratic disadvantage of 79k voters, and it largely accounts for the Republicans closing the overall voter registration gap in the Sunshine State.

The balance –some 97k voters — accounting for Republicans closing the statewide voter registration lead held by Democrats is due to party-switching.

Of the 11.3m voters in Florida who were registered on January 1, 2013 and who remained on the voter rolls on August 31, 2016, some 216k former Democrats are no longer (as of August 31, 2016) registered with the Democratic Party. There’s also been party-switching among formerly registered Republicans, but it has not been as drastic: some 120k registered voters who were registered as Republicans on December 31, 2012 are no longer registered Republicans (as of August 31, 2016).

I’ll have fuller examination of  party-switching in a subsequent post, as I’m currently working on an academic paper on the topic that delves down into much greater detail.

So there you have it. The great mystery of the narrowing voter registration gap between Democrats and Republicans in Florida has been solved.

No conspiracy. No skewing of the data. Just the facts.

Yes, I know facts are tough to swallow for some, especially in these heated times.

But if you just chew on them long enough, you really can digest them. Really. Just try.

I still have hope that the United States can become a Mastication Nation.

Fewer NPAs & more Hispanics Register in final days before FL Presidential Primary Book closing

There was a slight uptick in the number of active registered voters in Florida immediately prior to the registration deadline to be eligible for the March 15 primary. From January 31 through February 16, 2016, the voter rolls grew by 62,318 voters. Certainly the number of newly registered voters was higher than 62k, given that the voter rolls are dynamic; Supervisors of Elections regularly remove voters from the rolls, including those who are deceased, move out of state, or are convicted of felonies. Under federal law (NVRA), SOEs should not be removing inactive voters during this period of time, given the immediacy of the March 15 presidential primary.

Is the increase in total registrations distributed evenly across racial and ethnic groups? No.

Hispanics now comprise 14.88% of the electorate, up .04% from the percentage of Hispanics in the January 31, 2016 active voter file. On the other hand, blacks now comprise 13.31% of the active voters, down from 13.34% of the January 31 active electorate. The percentage of the Florida electorate that is whites is also down, from 65.74% to 65.71% of the electorate.

These are pretty steep changes for just a 15 day window of new voter registrations, and likely reflects broader demographic changes in the state (more younger Hispanics eligible to register to vote) and general attrition rates from the voter file of white and black registered voters who have been removed from the statewide voter file.

What about these last-minute changes across the parties? Some interesting patterns emerge.

Registrants (with the possible exception of Jeb Bush) are generally not likely to change their racial or ethnic categorization on a voter registration form. But current registrants might very well might change their party registration ahead of a closed primary contest if they plan on voting.  This is especially true of No Party Affiliates (NPAs), who are excluded from voting in party primaries in Florida.

This very well might explain the drop in total NPA registrations in Florida over the two week period prior to the February 16 registration cutoff, from 2.892m to 2.878m active NPA voters. The decline of 13.6k registered voters is not Huuuuge in the grand scheme of things, but it is significant, given the general trend in the Sunshine State of more voters registering as NPAs over the past two decades.

It bears noting that nearly all of the decline in NPA registered voters appears to be due to the decline in white NPAs; the total number of registered Hispanic NPAs, and even black NPAs, increased over the two-week period.

Although there is certainly the possibility of an ecological fallacy at play when interpreting these aggregate numbers as a sign of NPAs engaged in last-minute party-switching, there was an uptick in the number of Republican active registered voters, nearly 50k from January 31 through February 16, to 4.276m. Democrats also increased their rolls, but less by than 30k, to 4.570m for the Presidential Preference Primary book closing.