State Democrats achieving registration goals

Tue, Nov 5, 2019

Election 2020

Copyright © Lakeland Ledger. All rights reserved. 11/5/19

Party on pace to sign up 200,000 new voters before 2020 election TALLAHASSEE — With a year until the 2020 elections, leaders of the Florida Democratic Party said they are on pace to register 200,000 new Democratic voters, a goal they believe is key to avoiding more “heartbreaking” narrow losses.

Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the state Democratic Party, told reporters last week that the party has registered more than 17,000 voters since June. Party workers have registered more Democrats than Republicans — a major part of the Florida Democrats’ 2020 strategy — for four consecutive months, he said.

“We learned our lesson in 2018 … and we have been taking Donald Trump seriously since he was elected in 2016,” Peñalosa said during a conference call.

To continue to boost the number of Democratic voters, the party has put $3 million into registration efforts, he added. The party ultimately hopes to register 200,000 new Democratic voters by July 2020.

Democrats have good reason to focus on voter registration. They’ve faced tough losses by razor-thin margins in past election cycles in Florida.

President Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 113,000 votes of 9.5 million votes cast in the state.

Two years later, Florida Democrats lost the governor’s mansion to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis by 32,463 votes. Democrat Andrew Gillum was narrowly edged out of the race in which 4.5 million Floridians cast ballots, the highest voter turnout in the state’s history.

Much of the party’s registration efforts involve geography, with a focus on traditional Democratic strongholds in South Florida. But Democrats also are targeting areas of low voter registration in the Panhandle, which traditionally has been considered Republican territory.

“If we focus on the swing districts, not only do we win the presidency, but we pick up quite a few (congressional) seats as well,” Peñalosa said last month during the party’s annual convention in Orlando.

Party leaders are also touting other investments ahead of the 2020 election, including increasing Democrats' volunteer efforts in the swing state.

With a new army of 1,600 volunteers, Peñalosa said the party has set a goal this weekend to register 2,020 new Democratic voters.

The weekend voter-registration drive is part of Florida Democrats’ “One Year Out” activities, which will include 150 events in 24 counties and on 12 college campuses, party leaders said.

“The Florida Democratic Party is seeing an unprecedented amount of volunteer engagement for an off-year,” Peñalosa wrote in a memo. “Democrats have completed 1,221 percent more volunteer shifts than we did in 2015.”

Dave Wersinger is a staff writer for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Copyright © Lakeland Ledger. All rights reserved. 11/5/19

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