NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Former gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum launches massive voter registration effort

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.

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