Blue Florida?

More than a week has passed and I’m still analyzing the 2018 election. Today I’d like to focus on one aspect that has received little coverage but could have the most impact on future elections starting in 2020. Let’s explore.

I spent ten of my happiest years living in Florida and the Sunshine State is the setting of today’s article. Last week Tuesday, by nearly a 2 to 1 margin, Florida voters passed Amendment 4 which restores voting rights to ex-felons. In pure numbers that means about 1.5 million Floridians will be able to do something in 2020 that they couldn’t do in 2018 – vote.

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes is the biggest prize of the purple states. In 2000 the outcome of the presidential election hinged on Florida’s hanging chads. I am among the many who feel we will never truly know whether George W. Bush or Al Gore, Jr. actually won Florida’s electoral votes and with them the 2000 presidential election.

As of this writing the 2018 Florida gubernatorial, U. S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner’s contests are all in recounts. That is how closely polarized Florida is and apparently has been for at least 18 years.

Now consider what happens if you add 1.5 million eligible voters who it is safe to assume will vote disproportionally Democratic. Purple Florid suddenly becomes blue. Caution: Not so fast, it’s not that simple!

Before you can vote you have to register and Florida’s voter registration campaign laws are among the most restrictive in the nation. While it has been nearly a decade since I lived in Florida, I wasn’t overly impressed with the State Democratic Party and you certainly can’t expect the Republicans to go out on a massive voter registration drive.

Now there is nothing to stop ex-felons from going into their county Board of Elections office and registering to vote; nothing but reality that is. Someone who hasn’t been able to vote for years, if not decades, isn’t likely to make registration their top priority. November 2020 is a long way away and a lot of life will take place in the interim. A dedicated force supplemented by publicity will be necessary in order to register and get a significant number of ex-felons to register and subsequently vote. Democrats don’t need the entire 1.5 million. With good candidates 100,000 will be sufficient to turn Florida blue. (That probably means you will have to register over 200,000 to get 100,000 votes.)

I think there may be a silver lining in the cloud I outlined above and his name is Tom Perez. The current DNC Chair has reinvigorated the State Parties and incentivized them to get resources to the local Party operations with the intent of building a ground game.

When the local Parties receive those resources (which will take the form of both money and outside personnel) they will have to cooperate by working outside the box. (From personal experience I can tell you that getting county level Party organizations in the South to deviate from the way they have traditionally done things is no simple task.)

At that point the task at hand is first to communicate to ex-felons that they can now register to vote. Then the hard work of personally contacting them in a respectful manner and helping them fill out the voter registration application begins. The last and equally important step in the process is to follow up with reminders and if necessary transportation to the polls to see that they actually vote. All that other work is for naught if they don’t actually cast a ballot.

Florida, and probably with it the 2020 Presidential election can be won and the campaign starts right now; no nominee currently required.

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