On Tuesday, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, one of many amendments on the ballot in the Sunshine State. According to Time magazine, the amendment passed with 64 percent of the vote and restored voting rights for people convicted of felonies as long as they have completed their sentences.
The amendment did not apply to people convicted of murder or felony sex offenses. Previously, under Governor Rick Scott, felons were forced to wait five years after finishing their sentences before applying to have their voting rights restored.
Floridians will have different opinions about the wording of the amendment (some opine it is too broad); the impact of the amendment could provide Florida Democrats with a tremendous advantage in future elections.
The recent midterm results are instructive. More particularly, the race for governor between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum is very close and might require a recount. As AP explains, a recount is mandatory under Florida law if the winning candidate’s margin is 0.5 percentage points or less.
As of Thursday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis was leading by approximately 42,000 votes and Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum needed just 500 more votes to trigger a mandatory recount. In the race for Senate, Rick Scott’s lead was about 21,000 votes and amounted to a margin of less than one half of 1 percent.
As is evident, these races are very tight and show the incredible split in party loyalty/affiliation among Floridians. By way of example, the Panhandle of Florida tends to benefit Republican candidates, while the southeastern part of the state is more heavily Democratic. As such, many of the major races in Florida have recently been decided by a few percentage points.
For example, an article in the Miami Herald explains, “Rick Scott beat Alex Sink for governor eight years ago by a mere 61,550 votes. Four years ago, Scott won re-election over Charlie Crist by 64,145 votes. Donald Trump won Florida over Hillary Clinton two years ago by 112,911 votes, securing him the presidency.”
Now that Floridians have passed Amendment 4, Democrats might have a significant advantage in future elections. A recent article in Time explains that because of Amendment 4, approximately 1.4 million people will be granted the right to vote in Florida elections. Many of these people are likely to vote for Democrats.
The BizPac Review found a new study that “confirms yet again what any observer of American politics knows instinctively: Felons who are allowed to vote overwhelmingly favor Democrats — six-to-one in the state’s studies.” The Tampa Bay Times further bolstered the conclusion that people convicted of felonies in Florida are more likely to be Democrats.
In practical terms, if all of these people vote and the ratio is so heavily in favor of the Democrats, the sheer number of votes could potentially swing the results of an election. These numbers should be concerning to Florida Republicans. Assuming that many of these people take advantage of their voting rights, the ratio of likely Democrat to Republican voters is staggering.
Now that the midterms have concluded (Florida is in the midst of another potential election dispute), Republicans must seriously consider how to offset some of these potential Democratic-leaning votes and would be well advised to formulate a plan that allows them to broaden their reach/base.
If Republicans fail to do so, they could slowly lose their grip on the vital swing state. This, in turn, could hurt Republican efforts nationwide.
While Republicans did better than expected in the midterms, they cannot sit idly by and wait for the 2020 elections. Rather, with the help of a strong leadership team, they must formulate a plan that will allow them to broaden their base and bring more youth and energy to the Republican party.
As a recent article noted, “The famous saying from the 2000 election rings true 18 years later and as Florida goes, so goes the nation. The Sunshine State will shine a light on our values, our future hopes and our political winds will be recognized as a major bellwether for the nation as a whole.”
If Republicans in Florida want the political winds to continue blowing in their direction, the time for planning starts now.
Elad Hakim is a writer and a practicing attorney.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.