The Florida Democratic Party has enjoyed a surge in new voter registrations, helping it become highly competitive with the Republican Party of Florida in early voting.
As of Oct. 14, the FDP had submitted 503,000 new registration forms in 2016. Meanwhile, the Florida GOP has submitted fewer than 60,000 new registration forms, Politico reports.
Overall, 2 million Florida residents have registered to vote in 2016, largely through third-party groups. The majority of third-party groups have been focusing on registering low-income, young and minority voters, who are expected to largely swing towards Democratic candidates.
Meanwhile, 311,000 Florida voters have so far cast absentee ballots. Of absentee ballots, 42 percent come from registered Republicans while 40 percent are from registered Democrats.
While both the FDP and the Florida GOP have no way of knowing which candidate early voters have cast their ballot for, they closely examine their voter registrations.
That narrow gap is a surprising show of early voting for the FDP, which had historically trailed far behind the Florida GOP in early voting.
GOP consultant Rick Wilson of Florida has attributed the Democrats’ ability to compete in early Florida voting to the meager efforts of the Republican National Committee and the campaign for GOP nominee Donald Trump.
“There is no real Republican ground game in Florida,” Wilson said.
FDP spokesman Max Steele says the party expects to have a better showing in early voting this year than in the last presidential election, when President Barack Obama narrowly won the state by 74,000 votes.
“Any way you square it, we are crushing them among new registrants ... We’ve prioritized voting by mail in an effort to close the gap with Republicans and we’re already seeing strong gains over our 2012 performance,” Steele said.
The FDP’s efforts to get as many of likely voters registered before the November election were imperiled after Hurricane Matthew prompted many Florida residents to evacuate during the last weekend of voter registration.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida had declined to extend the voter registration deadline but was overruled by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who has extended the deadline to Oct. 18, according to the Miami New Times.
Florida is considered a must-win battleground state for the Trump campaign, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton currently has a lead in the state.
Aggregating the last seven state polls released since Sept. 29, Real Clear Politics found that Clinton leads a four-way race in Florida by an average 2.7 percentage points.