More Pinellas County residents changed their party affiliation to Republican than they did to become Democrats during the first six weeks of the year. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 16 more than 4,200 voters changed their party to the GOP while only 3,825 changed their affiliation to Democrat.
Voters had until Feb. 16 to change parties for that change to apply in the March 15 Presidential Preference Primary. That date is important because Florida is a closed primary state, meaning Democrats can only vote for a Democrat and Republicans can only vote for a Republican. No Party Affiliation voters cannot vote in the primary at all.
With that in mind, a total of 4,800 NPAs signed on with a political party. Of those, more Democrats were registered than Republicans by slightly fewer than 400 voters.
Where things may look good for the local GOP lies in the number of people who swapped parties from Democratic to Republican. While 754 voters dumped the GOP and headed left, more than 1,500 Democrats signed on to become Republicans.
That can be taken in a number of ways. First, members of the GOP can glean from it a sense of optimism that more Democrats are joining their party than the other way around. That’s key in a general election when Republicans will need to earn a good bit of the moderate vote to win the election.
But Democrats could walk away with their own interpretation of the numbers. Because Florida is a closed party, voters have for years joked that they’d rather vote for the other party so they could cast a ballot for the candidate they’d most like a Democrat to run against.
In the year of Donald Trump, that could be particularly true. Many progressives think a Donald Trump nomination is a surefire way for a Democrat to win the White House. Still others are intimidated by the prospect of Trump running in a General Election and may want to make a vote against him.
But the Pinellas GOP sees another trend. Looking back even further into voter registration numbers shows a .34 percent increase in GOP registration compared to just .24 percent increase in Democratic registration. And the GOP figures fall behind only two of the top ten Florida counties in registration. Duval County saw a .55 percent increase in Republican registration. Lee County GOP registration jumped by .45 percent.
The numbers indicate a win for Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Nick DiCeglie. He assumed the head role in the local party with grand ambitions of winning Pinellas for Republicans both locally and nationally.
The numbers in the top 10 counties include months going back through 2015. Pinellas had the third highest increase in Democratic registration with .24 percent. Duval County had the highest with .28 percent.