Florida Republicans have closed the registration gap with Democrats for the Nov. 3 election, according to final numbers released Thursday by the state. But Democrats are currently well ahead in the vote-by-mail race as total mail-in ballots returned passed the 2 million mark.
Statistics released Thursday show 5,169,012 registered Republicans, 5,303,254 Democrats and 3,753,286 non-party affiliated voters in the state.
That’s an almost 14% increase over the GOP’s numbers in 2016, while Democrats gained just about 9%.
The registration gap between the two parties of about 134,000 is a "historic low,” Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said. In 2016, the gap was about 327,000.
“The Democrats talk a big game, but are falling short in the face of the enthusiasm behind President Trump and the GOP, as well as Florida Trump Victory’s superior ground game,” Vaughn said.
The results are disappointing for Florida Democrats, who had hoped to conduct massive voter registration drives this year. But an organization founded by former candidate for governor Andrew Gillum to register 1 million people fizzled even before police found him passed out in a Miami Beach hotel room with an overdosed escort, and he withdrew from public life.
The uncertainty over a law carrying out Amendment 4, which left it unclear how many former felons were actually eligible to vote, also may have hurt Democrats.
But the party and the Biden campaign also did little door-to-door canvassing this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Large in-person events also were halted.
Republicans continued knocking on doors, ultimately reaching 2 million people that way nationwide.
But the parties did not see the biggest increase. The number of non-party affiliated voters increased by 21% since 2016.
In terms of actual ballots cast by mail so far in the general election, however, Democrats were outpacing Republicans.
More than 1 million Democrats have returned ballots so far, compared with 623,395 Republicans and 401,000 independents.
“The reality is Democrats have amassed an overwhelming vote-by-mail advantage and turned out in historic numbers for the primary election in August," Democratic Party spokeswoman Carlie Waibel said. "Democrats are leading in the metrics that will determine this election and returning their ballots at a higher rate than Republicans — and we aren’t letting up.”
Florida Republicans might have been hamstrung by President Trump’s attacks on the mail-in process, despite his saying Florida’s system was “safe and secure.” Reports have shown Republicans nationwide were less likely to vote by mail, leading the Florida GOP to send out mailers and Facebook ads urging their members to do it.
The general election is Nov. 3. Early voting begins Monday.
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