Despite attempts by state leaders to stifle turnout, Democratic voters were resilient.
With the 2012 election in the rearview mirror, pundits and strategists on both sides of the aisle are engaged in a post mortem about what went right and what went wrong. But as Democrats here in Miami-Dade County bask in the glow of victory, there’s already work being done behind the scenes with a look ahead to 2014 and beyond.
When Florida’s Republican-led legislature passed HB1355, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law reducing early voting, their intention was clearly to manipulate voter outcomes for the benefit of their party. Knowing early voting has been a Democratic Party stronghold; they saw this as a way to ensure Republican votes would prevail in the presidential election and in future years. As a result, long lines persisted throughout early voting and were even more frustrating on Election Day.
Despite the lines and decrease in voting opportunities, it was a clean sweep for Democrats in Miami-Dade. Our county gave President Obama his largest margin of victory in Florida and sent new progressive representatives to Washington and Tallahassee. Plus, for the first time ever, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in absentee ballots – long-considered a Republican-dominated voting mechanism.
This outcome was the result of a well-coordinated effort to increase voter registration, the recruitment of strong candidates such as political newcomer Jose Javier Rodriguez and Joe Garcia, who became the first Cuban-American Democrat elected to Congress in Miami-Dade, and a robust grassroots effort to get out the vote. The Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, President Obama’s campaign team and the campaigns of other candidates running for office worked together to achieve these results. At the conclusion, President Barack Obama had a solid 61-percent lead over Mitt Romney in Miami-Dade County.
But make no mistake; the Democratic Party’s work in Florida’s most populous county isn’t complete. In fact, many elections are won and lost in between elections – long before ballots are cast.
First and foremost, our state leaders need to restore early voting to two full weeks. Regardless of party affiliation, this is the right thing to do. Often the focus of criticism during elections, Florida should be leading the way in policies that encourage voter participation, not those that discourage it.
In addition, Democrats must continue to progress as a party by recruiting strong candidates who have the passion needed to run a good campaign and are able to appeal to the county’s diverse voter base, staying active and organized in recruiting young voters, and continuing to communicate our message of creating opportunities for all to succeed in this country regardless of income level or origin.
Richard Lydecker, chair, Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee