Florida Democratic rising star Andrew Gillum has announced a massive push to register over a million voters in the nation’s third most populous state.
Gillum gained national fame last year, when he narrowly lost the gubernatorial race by the slimmest margin in Florida executive electoral history (he and Republican winner Ron DeSantis were within 0.5% of each other).
Now, as 2020 approaches, Gillum has pledged to “deliver Florida for whoever the Democratic nominee is” and is mobilizing tens of thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars to do so. He is adding his efforts to an already existing push by the state Democratic Party to register new voters.
Florida is arguably the biggest and most important swing state, with a huge electorate that is almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
Gillum’s loss is only the latest example of close elections in the state; In 2016 Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by less than 120,000 votes out of more than nine million votes cast, while in 2000 George Bush only beat Al Gore because the US Supreme Court forbade a recount of the state’s extremely close vote.
These numbers do not necessarily reflect the real political opinions of the large state’s population, though.
Until 2018 – when voters approved a constitutional amendment – over 1.5 million former felons were barred for life from voting (an egregious policy that other democracies consider it a gross human rights violation).
The Republican-controlled state legislature is now trying every trick in the book to limit those newly-enfranchised voters’ rights.
Democratic voter registration has dropped precipitously in Florida since Barack Obama’s elections in 2008 and 2012, thanks in large part to state Republicans’ numerous efforts to disenfranchise their political enemies’ supporters – primarily non-white, poor and urban people.
Gillum’s efforts are part of a broader movement by Democrats across the country to combat the effects of voter suppression in the lead up to 2020. He is joined by former Attorney General Eric Holder, who last week passed up the chance to run for president in order to focus on combating gerrymandering (the process by which politicians change district boundaries to give themselves unfair advantages).
Also among the champions fighting to make the 2020 vote fairer is Georgia Democratic rising star Stacey Abrams, who is still contesting her 2018 loss to Brian Kemp in a lawsuit against the state. Not only were there signs of rampant voter suppression in the state, the election itself was run by the then-Secretary of State of Georgia… who was Brian Kemp. Abrams founded the bipartisan group Fair Fight which focuses on voter suppression.
Abrams, who will visit Seattle next month, is one of the most popular Democratic politicians in the country and has been widely discussed as a potential vice-presidential candidate for Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders. She has used her political influence for the cause of Fair Fight, laying down a ground rule for any political suitor; they have to be serious about dealing with voter suppression.
Democratic candidates would be wise to take her advice on this issue.
Democratic candidates running for the White House in 2020 can expect to be reminded that their most dependable supporters are people that Republicans have spent years trying to disenfranchise. Many Democrats believe that one of their party’s most important tasks is giving these people back their political voice. Andrew Gillum is certainly one of them.