TALLAHASSEE — Florida Democrats, with a financial boost from former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, plan to spend nearly a half-million dollars on a campaign to urge Hispanic and African American voters to cast their ballots by mail in the 2020 presidential election.
Party leaders say a 2018 effort to specifically boost voting by mail — as opposed to early voting or Election Day turnout — led to increased participation in last year’s election. Republican Ron DeSantis defeated Gillum in the governor’s race, but the contest went to a recount and was decided by only some 30,000 votes.
“This is really a surefire way to bring people back into the process,” Gillum said Thursday on a conference call to announce the program.
Gillum said he plans to raise $450,000 on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party to help cover the cost of the campaign, the latest in a string of commitments he’s made in advance of 2020. He’s raising money for an ambitious voter registration program, and last week said he was partnering with Democratic super PAC Forward Majority to flip Florida House seats.
This latest effort is a way to “building real and lasting infrastructure”, Gillum said, and he emphasized the importance of a surge in Democratic turnout in 2020. Florida will be key to President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, and Republicans will control the swing state’s political redistricting in the coming decade unless Democrats can take control of one of the two legislative chambers.
During the 2018 midterm elections, slightly more than 2.6 million Floridians voted by mail, according to Division of Elections data. Nearly 8.3 million votes were cast in the election.
Democrats have acknowledged that their past efforts at registering and motivating voters have fallen short, handing the party a series of narrow defeats. In advance of 2020, the party is building field operations across the state, visiting African American churches and targeting Spanish-language media.
Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, stressed that this latest effort is not about signing up new voters but making it easier for those already registered.
During the 2018 election cycle, the party signed up 578,000 sporadic voters to receive mail-in ballots, he said. Data showed that 300,000 voters who had stayed home in three midterm elections wound up casting ballots.
This year’s effort is about “turning passive voters into active voters,” Peñalosa said.