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Moneyball politics: Florida (Part II)

February 9th, 2020, 8:36am by Sam Wang


A few days ago, I wrote about how focused effort in a handful of Florida state legislative districts could lead to outsized consequences lasting for the next decade. Here are those districts – and ways to focus on them.

The current composition of the Florida House is 73 Republicans, 47 Democrats. Every seat is up this November. In 2018, the 14 closest Republican districts were decided by an average margin of 3.0% – about 2,100 votes. That is much smaller than 12,000, the average number of citizens per district who are potentially re-enfranchised by Amendment 4.

Here are the vote margins in those districts (source: Ballotpedia). In the left-hand column, blue shading indicates a district won by Andrew Gillum (D) in his race for governor in 2018. (A map showing almost the same information is here.)

Even taking into account the higher expected turnout in a presidential election year, it is clear that citizens in these districts could be quite influential – if they are allowed to vote. However, the legislature has decided that they have to pay all outstanding fines. Furthermore, as ex-felons, they are likely to be very focused on not violating the law again, and don’t necessarily want any trouble with iffy voter registration. Therefore, if they want to vote again, they need both financial and legal help.

Both Democrats and Republicans ought to be interested in these close districts.

To help Democratic candidates: Within Florida, the Future Now Fund is focusing on key districts. Their Rising Tide project is a place to put resources. Thanks to Steve Hough and Margie Stein in the comment section.

A national organization, Forward Majority, is also aggressively pursuing marginal seats in state legislatures that may change control in 2020. This year they are focused on Florida and Texas.

Goal Thermometer
In the comments section, Jennifer Stearns Buttrick highlights the work of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The legislature is requiring that ex-felons pay fees, fines, and restitution before they can vote. Although this is essentially a poll tax, for now it’s the law. The average fees and fines owed are around $500, and the FRRC is helping people pay those. (A small fraction of people also owe restitution, which the FRRC is not covering.) The FRRC is also offering legal assistance. You can give to them through the ActBlue thermometer on the left.

To help Republican candidates: A good place to put efforts is the Florida GOP. One could also go to the Republican State Legislative Committee.

Thanks to Zach Sippy for assistance in locating information.

Tags: 2020 Election · House

One Comment so far ↓

  • Lucy Berlin

    Thanks for pointing out how few votes will likely determine the State Legislature control, and thus the odds of “Red Map” gerrymandered state and federal districts in Florida and Texas!

    For so many of us this would be a much better use of limited funds for 2020 elections than the presidential primaries.
    (Ditto for Bloomberg’s $$, but that’s another matter!)

    Back to the re-enfranchisement of Florida’s ex-felons:

    On 2/19/20 a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ex-felons may not be barred from registering to vote simply because they have not paid fees and fines. This ruling upheld a Tallahassee judge’s ruling that these restrictions amount to an “unfair poll tax” and that would likely prevent many from exercising the right to vote. A right returned to them in the Florida constitutional Amendment #4 that had been overwhelmingly approved by Florida’s voters in 2018.

    Florida Governor Tom DeSantis (R) plans to immediately appeal to the full Circuit Court.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-cant-bar-felons-from-registering-to-vote-over-fees-and-fines-court-rules/

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/court-blocks-florida-restrictions-on-felons-voting-rights-11582132589

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