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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Florida Battleground a Huge Challenge for Dems

This weekend the Obama campaign begins training hundreds of volunteers at 24 sites throughout Florida. The training will carefully thread the new Florida voter registration law, which is designed, more than anything else, to make it harder for pro-Democratic constituencies to vote.
Under normal circumstances Florida should be a ‘leaning blue’ state. President Obama carried it by 2+ percent in 2008, and demographic changes during the last 4 years could swell the margin a little more. But the Republican campaign to make voting harder presents a tougher challenge for Dems, as Marc Caputo reports in the Miami Herald:

…The Republican-led Legislature passed the registration crackdown law in 2011…Under the new law, which is being challenged by liberal-leaning groups in court, voter-registration groups must register for the first time with the state. They have to meticulously track voter-registration forms and turn the completed paperwork into a Supervisor of Elections office within 48 hours. The previous deadline was 10 days.
Fines range from $50 for each late application to a maximum of $1,000 per organization per year. Two school teachers have faced fines for breaking the new law, which was recently mocked on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.”.
The law also scaled back early voting by eliminating it the Sunday before Election Day when African American and Hispanic voters cast almost 30 percent of their ballots, said Camila Gallardo, spokeswoman for National Council of La Raza, a Latino-advocacy group challenging the new law.

Democrats have experienced a 4 percent decline in “active voters” since 2008, while Republicans have increased by abiout 1 percent. But Dems do have some leverage in Florida, which makes the battle worth fighting, as Caputo explains:

Democrats still lead Republicans overall by a margin of 448,000 active registered voters. And, the Florida Democratic Party notes, they lead by an even greater amount — 540,000 — by including the pool of so-called inactive voters, who cast ballots so infrequently that the state doesn’t post information about them.
The Florida Democratic Party points out the inactive voters can become active. It says that about 100,000 of them showed up in 2008, when Obama won the state — and the White House in the process — by about 236,000 votes.
There are about 11.2 million active voters (plus 1.1 million more inactive voters). About 41 percent are Democrats, 36 percent Republicans, 20 percent have no party affiliation and fewer than 4 percent belong to a smattering of other parties.
…White voters appear to be dropping from the Democratic rolls, with 206,000 of them leaving since the last election. Black voters continue to leave the Republican Party, where African American active voters declined 7 percent to about 59,000…Since 2008, the Democratic Party’s Hispanic voter rolls have increased more than 10 percent to about 565,000. The Republican Party’s Hispanic increase has been more modest, about 2 percent, to about 453,000.
…From the beginning of the 2006 Democratic wave until the 2008 elections, Florida Democrats increased their rolls by a whopping 502,000 active voters, thanks to the organizing efforts of the Obama campaign and, especially, the group ACORN, which has since disbanded amid scandal and Republican attacks. As Democrats tallied up the gains, Republicans insisted that they’d still get their voters to the polls to best Obama. They didn’t. And they didn’t do much to register new voters, either.

Caputo notes that recent Florida polling indicates that President Obama and Gov. Romney are in statistical tie territory (47-45 edge for Romney). Florida Republicans will undoubtedly be exploiting every opportunity to suppress votes of pro-Democratic constituencies, since they know their candidate is not likely to inspire much of an increase in Republican turnout. In a close election, the quality of the voter registration and turnout training that Team Obama begins this weekend in Florida may indeed prove pivotal to America’s future.

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