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Florida

Florida: Blue Inroads

Senate: 17 Democrats, 23 Republicans | To Flip Blue: 4 Seats
House: 47 Democrats, 73 Republicans | To Flip Blue:  14 Seats

Florida’s state legislature is poised for Democratic gains. In 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum narrowly lost the Governor’s race to Republican Ron DeSantis by less than half a point, and Democrats flipped two Congressional and 7 State Senate seats.

GOP state legislators drew the state’s Congressional and state legislative district lines in their favor after the last round of redistricting in 2010. Following successful legal challenges, the Florida Senate district lines were redrawn in 2015 to be less gerrymandered, but the House remains badly gerrymandered in favor of Republicans.

Nonetheless, there are some great opportunities for Democrats in both chambers, particularly after 2018’s successful citizen-initiated ballot initiative (Amendment 4), whose passage means that more than a million formerly incarcerated people can now register to vote in Florida, offering an opportunity for Democrats to expand the electorate.

These are ‘last chance’ races: whoever is elected to the state legislature in 2020 will draw the next round of district lines. It is our last chance to build power in FL’s legislature ahead of redistricting, which has implications for the next entire decade.

Fast Facts

  • Current Control: Republican Trifecta (since 2011)
  • Gubernatorial Election: Not up in 2020
  • Length of State Senate Terms: 4 years
  • Length of State House Terms: 2 years
  • Candidate Filing Deadline: June 12, 2020
  • State Legislative Primary Date: August 25, 2020
  • Redistricting: State legislature controls Congressional redistricting, and the Governor has a veto over these maps; state legislature controls state legislative redistricting, subject to State Supreme Court approval, and Governor has no veto over these maps
  • Electoral College Votes: 29

Broader 2020 Opportunities

  • Florida is a critical, perennial battleground presidential state. Floridians voted for Obama in ‘08 and ‘12 before Trump won the state by about 1 point. Florida is one of the “Big Four” states that are likely to control the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Democrats have a tremendous opportunity to claim FL’s 29 Electoral College votes this year, with smart organizing, expanding the electorate through voter registration, and turnout efforts.
  • There are also several competitive Congressional races in FL this year (including FL-26, FL-27, FL-15 and FL-16).
  • Working to support FL state legislative candidates will be instrumental in helping drive turnout up and down the ticket in this historic election year.

Population Demographics

Population

21,992,985

Median Age

41.6

Male | Female

48.9 % | 51.1%

Racial Diversity

White: 75.39%; Black: 16.10%; Asian: 2.71%; Two+ races: 2.63%; Other: 2.82%

2016 Election

Hillary Clinton

Votes: 4,504,975
Percentage: 47.82%
Electoral Votes: 0

Donald Trump

Votes: 4,617,886
Percentage: 49.02%
Electoral Votes: 29

Voting Suppression

In 2018, Florida voters passed an amendment to their constitution, Amendment 4, which paved the way to re-enfranchise former felons. The amendment would mean a possible 1.4 million additional voters, most of them Democrats, and the Republican-led legislature passed a bill which limited eligibility only to ex-convicts who could pay all of their residual court costs. Recently, a federal judge has ruled against this law, but further challenges are anticipated..

Other notable events:

  • Florida has also participated in Kris Kobach’s Crosscheck voter roll purge.
  • In 2012, the state reduced early voting from 14 days to 8 days, and removed the Sunday before Election Day from early voting, as well.
  • Certain key districts in Florida have consistently had fewer poll workers and the concurrent longer lines which reduce actual voting (since many people simply can’t afford to spend that much time in line).
  • Florida continues the practice of disposing of absentee ballots whose signatures don’t match the signatures that the state purportedly has on file.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if Amendment 4 had been passed prior to 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum would likely have won the gubernatorial election over Republican Rick DiSantis.

 

District Lines

According to Ballotpedia: In Florida, both congressional and state legislative district lines are drawn by the state legislature. Congressional lines are adopted as regular legislation and are subject to gubernatorial veto. State legislative lines are passed via joint resolution and are not subject to gubernatorial veto. State legislative district maps are automatically submitted to the Florida Supreme Court for approval. In the event that the court rejects the lines, the legislature is given a second chance to draft a plan. If the legislature cannot approve a state legislative redistricting plan, the state attorney general must ask the state supreme court to draft a plan. There are no similar procedures in place for congressional districts.

The Florida Constitution requires that all districts, whether congressional or state legislative, be contiguous. Also, “where doing so does not conflict with minority rights, [districts] must be compact and utilize existing political and geographical boundaries where feasible.” Districts cannot be drawn in such a way as to “favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent.”

  • Following the 2010 United States Census, Florida was apportioned 27 congressional seats.
  • Florida’s House of Representatives is made up of 120 districts; Florida’s State Senate is made up of 40 districts.
  • In Florida, both congressional and state legislative district lines are drawn by the state legislature.

New Voter Restrictions

From the Brennan Center 2019 Report:

New restrictions enacted in 2019: Cut back on the expansive changes made by Amendment 4 – a constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to many Floridians with a felony conviction and that was passed overwhelmingly by Florida voters in November 2018. A federal 3 district court, however, has issued a partial preliminary injunction against the cutback, ruling that it is unconstitutional for Florida to condition the restoration of voting rights on legal financial obligations that a returning citizen cannot afford to pay. (For additional information, click here.)

Restriction(s) in place for the first time in 2012: Cut early voting, curbed voter registration drives, and made it harder to restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions.

Original effective date: 2011

Background: In 2011, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a series of laws, signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R), making it harder to vote. First, lawmakers reduced the early voting period, which contributed to long lines in the 2012 election. The legislature responded in 2013 by restoring some of the early voting days, but there are still fewer early balloting opportunities today than before the 2011 cutbacks. Second, Florida passed new restrictions on voter registration drives. With the help of the Brennan Center, the most onerous aspects of this law were enjoined by a federal court in August 2012. Finally, Gov. Scott reversed a prior executive action that had made it easier to restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions.

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