The Legislature loaded the ballot with 11 constitutional amendments, hoping to bring out the party faithful with hot-button issues like abortion, religious freedom, Obamacare repeal, and tax relief. With a threshold of 60 percent of the popular vote for passage, all but three of the amendments failed. The plan may have backfired with many voters motivated to defeat the social agenda items. The three that passed were property tax breaks for combat veterans, spouses and seniors.
Perhaps the most damaging legislative move was the blatant effort to drastically alter our voting process by limiting early voting and voter registration and by changing our presidential primary election date. Many questioned the motivation of this stealth move that was not properly vetted as voter suppression. Yet leadership claimed it was necessary to combat nonexistent voter fraud. The governor doubled down with a lawsuit and a voter purge.
Record numbers of new voters were registered after the courts tossed out that portion of the law; new voters showed up in long early-voting lines to defy efforts to limit their voices and Florida, once again, was the last state to declare a winner in the presidential race and became the butt of many jokes.
If there is a silver lining for Florida Republicans after the last ballot was counted, it’s that party leadership is now forced to confront what should have been self-evident — that our tent was getting very small and we were drastically out of touch with the constituents we were elected to represent. A course correction was badly needed.
Paula Dockery is a term-limited Republican senator from Lakeland who is chronicling her final year in the Florida Senate.