Progressives are openly trying to flip Florida, much as they did California, from a reliably red state to solid blue. Changing demographics fueled by massive immigration is the overriding reason the Golden State is now a leftist Democrat stronghold. Dems are still struggling in the Sunshine State, having lost key gubernatorial and U.S. Senate battles by close margins in 2018. But they have good reason to feel confident that in the long run population shifts, once again fueled by Hispanic migration, will help them get over the top in a vitally important coastal state.
Florida’s Hispanic voting population grew by a stunning 81% between 2014 and 2018, The Miami Herald reports. The numbers make Hispanics the fastest-growing demographic in the state as the 2020 elections approach. The data were compiled by Spanish-language television network Univision and L2
Some 1.3 million Hispanics voted in Florida in 2018, up significantly from 748,000 in 2014. The surge of Puerto Ricans into the state, fueled by economic woes and the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, is greatly driving the increased Hispanic voter pool. Roughly 1.2 million Puerto Ricans now live in Florida. According to a 2018 poll conducted for “Nuestro Futuro,” a partnership of the Puerto Rican Alliance of Florida, Florida International University, and the Puerto Rican Leadership Council of South Florida, these newcomers overwhelmingly lean Democrat. Only 7% of Puerto Ricans in the Sunshine State who were surveyed replied that they were more likely to vote Republican, while a hefty 57% said they favored Democrats.
Puerto Ricans are on the cusp of overtaking Cuban-Americans, who traditionally vote Republican in large part due to anti-Castro sentiment, as the biggest Hispanic group in Florida. Even worse for the GOP, younger Cuban-Americans are not as conservative as their parents and are therefore more apt to vote Democrat. A 2014 Pew Research Center poll showed that 56% of Cubans in the U.S. between the age of 18 and 49 leaned Democrat while only 23% of those in that age group were likely to support Republicans.
The Criminal Element
Another bright sign for Democrats is the November passing of Amendment 4, the ballot initiative that amends the state’s constitution to allow convicted felons to vote. A 2014 survey by The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science found that 73% of convicts who would participate in a presidential election say they would vote Democrat.
Florida Republicans are working to limit the scope of the sweeping initiative. The state’s GOP-controlled House passed a bill on April 24 that would only restore voting rights to convicted felons who have fulfilled all the terms of their sentences. This would include any financial restitution requirements and civil judgments. Democrats howled that this would disenfranchise felons who cannot immediately meet that bar, if ever.
“The goal is not to have someone never able to vote because they’re never able to pay back some form of restitution,” state Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Democrat, said as the Senate took up the bill. Republicans disagree, the Orlando Weekly reports.
“The idea that there’s an automatic restoration of rights after you have defrauded someone else and left them in misery… is not congruent” with the amendment, GOP Sen. David Simmons asserted. Clearly, Democrats want to see as many convicted felons as possible be eligible to vote while Republicans do not.
Even without the felon vote, however, the Sunshine State may well be destined for the Democrats. Younger Hispanic voters in Florida more than doubled between 2014 and 2018, The Herald reports. Some 261,000 Hispanics aged 18-34 voted in the state in 2018, up from 109,000 in 2014. While those are still relatively low numbers, progressive groups are feverishly working to register new voters as 2020 approaches. The activist organization “Alianza For Progress” boldly states on its website that its goal is to “transform the state of Florida” via an “alliance to mobilize 1 million Puerto Rican voters in Florida.”
“I think what we saw in 2018 was the first wave of those people who turned 18 in 2010, 2011, 2013 start entering the electorate in bigger and bigger numbers in Florida,” Fernand Amandi, a Dem pollster in Miami, told The Herald. “It’s not a monolithically Republican electorate like it was 20-30 years ago.”
GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) both successfully targeted enough of the Hispanic vote to squeak out narrow wins in 2018, but progressives are openly strategizing based on the steady increase of minority voting blocs in key states in the years to come.
“Sharp increases in diversity can be highlighted by looking at those states where racial minorities should comprise more than 40 percent of the eligible electorate. In 2020, there should be six states over this threshold: four states — Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas for the first time, as well as the District of Columbia — where minorities are more than half of [eligible voters], plus Maryland and Georgia, where minorities will make up between 40 percent and 50 percent of [eligible voters].”
The Center observes that it may take a bit longer for Florida to join the ranks of those other states, but that day is coming. “By 2036, eight additional states should cross the 40 percent threshold: Arizona, Alaska, New Jersey, Nevada, Florida, Mississippi, New York, and Louisiana.”
Democrats are counting on younger racial minorities to spur them to eventual electoral dominance. The rise of the Hispanic voter base in Florida is shaping up nicely for them in this regard. It may not be enough to secure victory in 2020, but you can’t fault Dems for believing that time is on their side.
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