Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Democrats Are Going to Try a Hail Mary Play in Florida

After Ron DeSantis' stunning 19-point win in Florida last year, Democrats could be forgiven for thinking that Florida had become a warmer version of North Dakota—it may have more alligators but it's just as hopeless. But while national Democrats may have given up on the state, the new chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Nikki Fried, has an idea. She wants to get two initiatives on the ballot next election. One would repeal state laws criminalizing marijuana and the other would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state Constitution. Both of these have greatly increased turnout among young Democrats in other states, so it might work in Florida.

The marijuana initiative started earlier and already has over 1 million signatures, probably more than enough to qualify. One company, Trulieve, has spent $25 million on the campaign to get it on the ballot. Florida is an expensive state. But Florida's Supreme Court may have the final say here and the state AG is arguing that it should reject the initiative. The abortion initiative started later and has only 400,000 signatures so far, but the organizers think it will reach 1 million long before the Feb. 1, 2024, deadline to qualify for the Nov. 2024 ballot. In states much redder than Florida, abortion has brought out droves of young people to vote. Of course, Florida is better known for its large population of seniors than for its large population of young people, but it is still worth a shot and could get many marginal voters to the polls. And note that seniors care about abortion, too, either because they have religious views that make them anti-abortion or they have personal experiences/political views/female relatives that make them pro-choice.

One thing working for Republicans is that there are now 542,000 more Republicans than Democrats in the Sunshine State. That is a historical reversal. Democrats used to dominate, at least in terms of registrations. Fried understands this and now wants to have the state Party run registration drives rather than outsourcing it to outside volunteers.

This isn't the first time a political party in Florida used a ballot initiative to try to drive turnout. In 2008, Amendment 2 was a vote to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions in the state. It got 62% but failed to do the job of handing Florida's electoral votes to John McCain. Barack Obama carried the state by about 3 points. Still, Fried thinks it is worth trying, especially given the track record of abortion and marijuana initiatives in other states. She sees the problem as getting young people who could vote but choose not to vote to go to the polls.

Dan Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who has studied ballot initiatives, doesn't think the initiatives will matter a lot. He thinks that if young voters are "meh" on Joe Biden, the initiatives alone won't motivate them to vote. But he could be wrong. Abortion is an issue that many young voters care passionately about, something that was not true of previous initiatives. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates