More than 647,000 Florida voters switched their political party affiliation in the two years leading up to this week’s general election, state voter registration records analyzed by News 6 show.
Although more than 95% of Florida’s 14.4 million registered voters have maintained the same political party affiliation since October 2020, some independent voters have committed to a political party while other voters have changed their registration from one party to another.
More than 72,000 voters who were registered as Republicans in 2018 now identify themselves as Democrats, state records show.
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That figure is significantly smaller than the 126,000 former Democrats who switched their party affiliation to Republican during that same time period.
Jeanne Lassiter, who voted as a Democrat for more than 50 years, became a registered Republican voter earlier this year after losing faith in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat members of Congress.
“Nobody was working together,” said Lassiter. “(Pelosi) is saying she’s trying and trying and trying, and I couldn’t see where she was doing anything.”
News 6 political analyst Jim Clark believes technology like the Florida Department of State Voter Registration website has made it much easier for voters to update their party affiliation.
“You have a lot of old time Democrats who registered in the 1960′s and 70′s when Florida was kind of a one-party state,” said Clark. “(They) have not voted for a Democrat in half a century, but they’re still registered as Democrats.”
Clark believes Republican groups have done a stronger job than Democrats in convincing Florida voters to update their party affiliation.
“(Republicans) have had hundreds of people all over the state, for months now, knocking on doors saying, ‘Please change your party registration. Here is how you do it’,” Clark told News 6.
The largest movement of voters has been those who previously did not identify with any political party but have since committed to one.
At least 131,000 independent voters, designated as No Party Affiliation on state voter records, have switched their registration to Republican in the past two years.
Another 178,000 No Party Affiliation voters became Democrats, state records show.
“I became more liberal, but I’m also a conservative as well,” said Tara Stevens, who previously identified herself as an independent voter.
But after being turned off by what Stevens described as President Donald Trump’s poor treatment of women, Stevens changed her voter registration from No Party Affiliation to Democrat.
“I needed to switch to Democrat because I felt like it was the right thing for me to do,” said Stevens.
Clark said independent voters often commit to political parties so they can participate in Florida’s primary elections, which are open only voters in the candidates' political party, while some voters might temporarily change their party affiliation so they can take part in a different party’s primary.
“If you’re an independent, or if you’re a Democrat and there’s a really good Republican primary, you can’t vote,” said Clark. “So that’s going to motivate you to change so you can vote in a very exciting primary.”
In Lafayette County, located in the north central part of Florida, the county’s 2,305 registered Democrats slightly outnumbered the 1,941 Republicans.
But today the party dominance has flip-flopped, with 3,068 Republicans and 1,313 Democrats now registered in Lafayette County.
More than 850 Democrats in Lafayette County switched their party affiliation to Republican since October 2018, state records show, which is about 18% of the 4,753 voters currently in the county.
Most of those party changes occurred this year, particularly between June and July when 233 Democrats changed their voter registration records, News 6 discovered.
“The large switch was mostly due to a local sheriff’s race which was a closed Republican primary,” said Lafayette County Supervisor of Elections Travis Hart, who indicated the region’s political dynamics had slowly been changing over the past decade. “We were inundated with people switching over in order to be able to vote in that primary.”
As Clark notes, voters who affiliate with a political party are under no obligation to vote for that party’s candidates in a general election.
Lassiter, the former longtime Democrat who recently changed her party affiliation, was originally planning on voting for Trump.
But she said she later changed her mind and voted for Joe Biden, despite now being a registered Republican.
“I got put out by Trump because he wouldn’t stay off the Twitter,” said Lassiter. “I didn’t want either of them, but (Biden) was the best choice.”