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Boosting voter turnout in Florida is key to defeating Trump, and Florida has the numbers needed to win. As the third most populous state in the country with 29 seats in the Electoral College, Florida plays a crucial role in Presidential elections.
Mass voter turnout by people of color will undermine the Right’s long-favored power grabbing strategy: racist voter suppression.
Post Civil War, Florida’s wealthy white political class harshly restricted the right to vote, preventing Black people from exercising any governing power. This was so successful that no Black person was admitted to Florida’s state legislature from 1888 to 80 years later in 1968.
The lifetime ban on voting that white politicians imposed on people with felony convictions, the most enduring of the original voting restrictions, disenfranchised one in five Black adults in Florida in 2016. In 2018, an estimated 1.4 million people regained their right to vote when voters passed Amendment 4. More on that later. The GOP is now trying to undermine Amendment 4 by forcing newly enfranchised people to pay up to thousands of dollars in old sentencing fees.
Voter suppression has locked Black people and communities of color from the halls of power. Boosting voter turnout gives people of color a fighting chance at improving life for everyone, not just a wealthy few.
Weakening the Republican Party’s control over Florida means improving the chances of our communities to thrive. Republicans currently dominate the governorship and both houses of the state legislature, which spells disaster for communities of color. More than 11,000 people in Florida have died due to COVID-19 as confirmed cases continue to climb. More than one million people are unemployed and thousands are at risk of losing their homes, yet Governor Ron DeSantis has made his allegiances crystal-clear by granting corporations $543 million in tax refunds.
Demographic shifts over the last ten years offer opportunities for social justice movements to win at the ballot – when we organize.
As of 2018, Florida’s POC population has grown by 25% and the Democratic electorate has become more racially diverse over the last decade, while the white population has grown by just 4%, and the Republican base has stayed over 80% white.
Florida is home to 1.4 million people of Puerto Rican descent, and this number continues to grow. Tens of thousands of people recently arrived have experienced first-hand the devastating effects of the Trump administration’s policies on the island, through the Fiscal Control Board’s austerity measures and Trump’s callous neglect following Hurricane Maria.
With 3.1 million eligible Latinx voters, Florida has the third largest Latinx electorate in the country. The Latinx vote is not a monolith; we can expect that Trump’s campaign will aggressively pursue Latinx people through anti-abortion and anti-socialist fearmongering.
As organizers of color remind us, “demographics are not destiny.” Numbers alone do not ensure direct wins.
Grassroots movements know that it takes a multiracial coalition of people committed to racial and economic justice to win. Andrew Gillum’s campaign for governor in 2018 which lost by just 0.5%, proved that running on a bold platform is possible. We do not need to cater to an elusive “centrist” vote.
Grassroots movements are fighting back and building a people’s governance.
The Florida Statewide Alignment Group (SWAG), a coalition made up of New Florida Majority, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Central Florida Jobs for Justice, Organize Florida, Dream Defenders, SEIU Florida, and Faith in Florida, has been building deep relationships and trust for 5 years.
In 2018 they, along with Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and others, won Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to over 1 million people previously unable to vote due to past convictions, the largest re-enfranchisement since women’s suffrage.
Since 2018, the organizations of SWAG have been registering new voters and talking to millions of majority Black and Brown voters, including those usually left behind by both parties because they are believed unlikely to vote. They are elevating exciting down-ballot races, supporting campaigns of movement candidates, while highlighting what is at stake at the top of the ticket. They are just seats away from winning a majority in the state legislature.
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the largest Election Day massacre in US history. Instigated when one Black man tried to vote, around 60 Black people were massacred in Ocoee, FL on Election Day, 1920.
This tragic anniversary illustrates just how our support can help finally break the back of Jim Crow in Florida.
By partnering with New Florida Majority, we have the opportunity to help these grassroots organizations win this election up and down the ballot, build movement infrastructure, develop grassroots movement leaders, and organize for a people’s governance.