TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - After Democrats lost their traditional edge in voter registration in Florida, party leaders on Monday announced a $2.5 million effort to boost registration numbers before the November elections.
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz acknowledged that his party had "taken our foot off the gas" after former Democratic President Barack Obama won the state in his 2012 re-election campaign.
"We have let our guard down … and the other side has eaten away at our margins. That's not going to happen anymore. We're changing the paradigm," Diaz told reporters during a video conference call.
The state party, the state House and Senate Democratic caucuses and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava will participate in the effort to sign up hundreds of thousands of Democrats before an October deadline to register to vote in the November elections. Those elections will include races for governor, a U.S. Senate seat and U.S. House and legislative seats throughout Florida.
The money is coming from an organization known as Florida Alliance and will be coordinated through the Florida Democratic Party.
"Democrats are fighting for the people and for policies to ensure everyday Floridians are free to achieve their own version of the American dream. The future of Florida is at stake," Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said.
Florida Alliance is a non-profit made up of "a collection of organized donors that have political interest as well as quality-of-life interests," executive director Raymond Paultre said during Monday's call.
The Democrats said they are targeting five unidentified "key areas" of the state.
Republicans recently eclipsed Democrats' decades-long dominance in voter registration. As of Dec. 31, Florida had 5,123,799 people registered as Republicans, 5,080,697 as Democrats, and 3,829,372 with no party affiliation, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.
While registration is one indicator of party strength, Republicans have controlled almost all of state government for the past two decades. The state also has seen a steadily increasing number of voters not registered with either party.
Democrats announced the voter-registration plan midway through the 2022 legislative session, as Republican lawmakers advance measures to restrict abortion access, add new restrictions on voting and ratchet up immigration enforcement.
The voter-registration push also comes after the Democrats' suffered major setbacks in the 2020 elections, in which former Republican President Donald Trump easily carried the state, Democrats lost seats in the Republican-dominated Legislature and the GOP ousted two Democratic congresswomen from Miami-Dade County.
Getting more Democrats registered to vote is "critical to our success" in this year's elections, Levine Cava, who was elected as mayor in 2020 after defeating a Republican challenger, said Monday.
"My 2020 campaign is living proof that Democrats can win and lead with great success when everyone puts in the work," she said.
Democrats have long touted efforts to boost voter registration numbers. The strategy this year is "simple," said Christian Ulvert, a consultant who works for the state Senate Democratic caucus and worked on Cava's campaign.
"The pitch is very simple. We're going back to basics," Ulvert told reporters. "It means the freedom to get by comfortably in a quality of life that doesn't require families to see two or three jobs to get ahead."
Ulvert rattled off a list of issues, such as skyrocketing property-insurance rates and education, that he said reflect values that are "core to Hispanic voters and run parallel" to the Democratic party.
"We just got to do a little bit better job of being more aggressive, every day, working with voters to remind them who's on their side," Ulvert said. "When we're present and active, we win."
(©2022 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida's Dara Kam contributed to this report.)
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