To a large extent, polls are often wrong because at bottom it’s not about who people say they support, but who actually approach the polls in one way or another. That is why in a country where voting is not compulsory and where a citizen must be registered to vote, the prior process of convincing people to complete the registration process is key.
Florida is considered the great battlefield of the national elections because it contributes a very high number of electoral votes, 29 (the third highest number in the country), and each election is a surprise. In the last six presidential, this State voted for the candidate who finally managed to reach the White House. He did it with very narrow margins between one candidate and the other, alternating between Democrats and Republicans without a fixed pattern. In other words, everything can happen here.
Traditionally there were more Democrats than Republicans registered, but that would be changing in 2020. As a result of the pandemic, the state Democratic party (following a federal strategy) did not carry out field activities. This year there were no neighbors’ doors knocking, there were no volunteers on street corners talking about their candidate, and thus there was no in-person effort to register voters on behalf of the party. Being registered as a Democratic or Republican voter logically does not oblige the person to vote for the candidate of that party, but in the vast majority, a registered voter for a party follows the line.
The Republicans’ strategy in Florida was different. In line with President Donald Trump’s argument that the virus should not paralyze activities, Republicans took to the streets of Florida and managed to register a record number of voters. In 2016, when Trump won the state by a difference of just over one percent, there were 327,843 more Democrats registered to vote in Florida than Republicans. Today the figures for 2020 were known and although the Democrats continue to have an advantage, the difference narrowed to 134,242 registered voters.
Today in Florida there are officially 5.2 million Democrats, 5.1 million Republicans, and 3.7 million independent voters. The difference is 1 percent in favor of the Democrats, the lowest figure in the history of the state and one more demonstration of how divided the electorate is in this region of the country.
Votes already executed
Where Democrats are having a wide advantage is in the number of voters who have already mailed their ballot. Safe votes.
Without knocking on doors or going out on the streets, Florida Democrats focused on campaigning for vote by mail. And it seems that it has paid off. Within 18 days of the election, registered Democrats have returned 430,000 more votes to the Elections Department than Florida Republicans. In percentages, 50 percent of registered Democrats have already cast their ballot, versus 39 percent of registered Republicans. Notably, Republicans, led by the President, have campaigned widely against voting by mail. Trump himself has argued that the system lends itself to fraud.
While Florida has a two-decade tradition of voting by mail, without major hiccups, the message may have gotten deep and Republicans may be waiting to vote in person. We will have to wait until next Monday, October 19, the date on which early voting begins in person to see what the mood of the voters will be.
Every vote counts
In a contest that is expected to be particularly close, all demographics are being appealed. And ex-cons are a contested group.
Through an amendment to Florida law approved in 2018, it is specified that a convict loses the right to vote and regains it upon serving his sentence after having paid all his debts with the state. There is the most controversial point, it is estimated that there are about 775 thousand people in the state who served sentences but still owe money to the authorities. Democrats, with a large turnout from Michael Bloomberg, have donated more than $ 20 million (16 of which came directly from the former mayor of New York and some of his friends) to pay off those debts and return the right to vote to those people.
The situation is going through a bureaucratic gray and last minute yesterday the state Elections Department sent a memo to the authorities of each county not to accept votes from ex-convicts who still have debts. The question is what will happen if some of those ex-cons are among the 2 million people who have already mailed their ballots.
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