Maria Fogarty has been a registered Republican her entire adult life in Miami. For the first time, in 2020, she went online and changed her party affiliation to Democrat to vote for candidate Mike Bloomberg, who dropped out early Wednesday morning.
“What I did was strictly as a result of Florida being a closed primary state. So therefore, I could not vote in the primary. In other states I could. Here it was just for the purposes of being able to influence the Democratic primary,” Fogarty said.
She wanted more moderate candidates to gain momentum and switched in order to stay off Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Absolutely,” Fogarty said.
Fogarty joined hundreds of people who registered as Democrats in the past three months in a rush before the February 18 state deadline. However, a deeper look at the numbers obtained by NBC 6 from the Miami-Dade County elections office shows that’s only part of the story.
NBC 6 tallied the net number of people who officially changed parties over the last year. In that time, 2,952 people officially switched to the Republican Party. Over the same time, the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade County added 1,722 people from other parties. Most party switchers came from the No Party Affiliation category.
The GOP also led in switching people over directly from the other major party. 944 more Democrats became Republicans than the other way around. Since Americans elected Donald Trump as President in November 2016, Republicans had a larger net gain of people switching parties by almost 900 people.
Still, there are more than 600,000 registered Democrats in the county and around 380,000 registered Republicans.
The largest block of voters in Miami-Dade to lose voters had No Party Affiliation. That political persuasion went down by more than 6,000 registered voters.
Miami-Dade County will be the center of the political battleground in South Florida. The county includes the ever-competitive 26th Congressional District – currently held by Democrat Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell - along with target races in the Republican-held Florida Senate district 39 and a handful of other races for the Florida House.
“We’re continuing to work on that all the time. And we’ll see different numbers across the state. In other counties it’s exactly the opposite in terms of switch parties,” said Terrie Rizzo, the Chair of the Democratic Party of Florida, when asked about the trend away from the party.
Local Democratic Party officials in Miami-Dade County have gained ground on the Republicans in the past three months with the upcoming Florida presidential primary on March 17. But even with a rush of people with No Party Affiliation to the Democratic Party in the last three months, the local GOP still has an edge.
"As the Democrat party continues its extreme leftward shift, the Republican Party continues communicating with voters and attracting more and more people," the Chair of the Miami-Dade Republican Party, Nelson Diaz told NBC 6 in reaction to this story.
“So that’s certainly interesting and something that a lot of people would not have expected,” said NBC 6 political analyst Carlos Curbelo.
In the grand scheme of things these numbers are small – only a few thousand with 1.4 million registered voters in the county. Curbelo says parties rarely focus on convincing people to change affiliation. It’s much easier to register new voters.
“These are oftentimes young people or new citizens. They may not be biased in either direction so you can actually convince them. Once someone is committed to a party, I mean, most people don’t switch parties their entire lives,” Curbelo said. “It’s a lot more work to get someone to switch parties than to reach out to an 18-year-old.”
NBC 6 has requested the party-switching numbers from Broward County, Monroe County, and the State of Florida. Those numbers were not available when this story published.
This story has been updated with a reaction comment from the Miami-Dade County GOP chair.