With the election less than 5 months away, the state released an updated vote-by-mail enrollment file for the first time since the March 18 primary and the numbers are striking.
Since the March 17 primary, Democrats have enrolled 350,000 Democrats into vote-by-mail compared to Republicans enrolling 160,000 more GOP voters into vote-by-mail. Democrats now have a 302,000 voter lead in vote-by-mail enrollments.
At a first glance, this is good news for Democrats. And a deeper analysis of the numbers gives even more cause for alarm at the Florida GOP headquarters.
In early 2019, Florida Democrats began building a field team and a network of progressive coalitions to establish a statewide volunteer corps and develop a unified strategy to flip the state for Democrats in 2020.
As of today, we have 241 staff who are building a winning statewide grassroots infrastructure and 19,876 active volunteers who have completed training and volunteer shifts with the Florida Democratic Party.
For the first time in nearly a decade, in a state that is always won on the margins Florida Democrats have built a strong and well trained volunteer corps ready before the launch of the general election. Nearly 20,000 volunteers have completed more than 80,000 volunteer shifts — and anyone with a voter file can see the fruits of their labor. Florida Democratic Party and Joe Biden volunteers are responsible for the increase in vote-by-mail and they will be responsible for turning out the vote for Joe Biden and Democrats in November.
Furthermore, this level of volunteerism has not been seen this early in the cycle in this state since 2012. For comparison, in June 2016 the FDP had 1,500 volunteers who had completed fewer than 1,000 volunteer shifts. Last week alone, more than 4,000 volunteers and staff made one million calls and texts to Florida’s Democratic voters, and enrolled more than 15,000 Democrats into vote-by-mail.
The massive field effort waged by Democrats to enroll Democrats into vote-by-mail has not been countered by the Florida GOP. Their failure to act, coupled with the President’s war on vote-by-mail, has had a chilling effect on Republican enrollment. Politico nodded to recent polling from Republican pollsters that confirmed Florida Republicans are moving away from vote-by-mail – and you don’t really have to look any further than the numbers to see that this is true.
Since 2012, Florida Democrats have increased emphasis on vote-by-mail – recognizing it as an important tool to win the state. From 2012 to 2017, Florida Democrats were able to narrow the divide in enrollments by enrolling sporadic voters – voters who sometimes turn out, but often don’t – into vote-by-mail. But, turnout still lagged and the GOP were successful in winning vote-by-mail and as a result the top of the ticket elections in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Democrats changed strategy in 2018.
Non-voters: In 2018, Florida Democrats widened their aperture of voters to enroll in vote-by-mail from just sporadic voters, to include voters who don’t turn-out and voters who are on inactive voting rolls for missing multiple elections.
This is notable for two reasons: (1) this is a much larger pool of Democratic voters than sporadic voters; and (2) these voters have been largely ignored by campaigns for nearly a decade due to their non-voter status.
In 2018, we enrolled 218,000 non-voters into vote-by-mail and more than 40% of them voted. In fact, 1 in 4 Democrats who voted by mail in 2018, voted for the first time in a midterm election– and more Democrats voted in 2018 than in 2016, due to the expansion of the electorate thanks to vote-by-mail.
Democrats are continuing our outreach to non-voting Democrats, ensuring a high Democratic turnout for Joe Biden this November. Of the voters we’ve enrolled in vote-by-mail since the 2020 primary, 103,000 are Democrats who definitely support Joe Biden, but according to voter trends, these voters are not likely to turn out unless they are approached by Democrats and the Biden campaign. By acting now to enroll them into vote-by-mail, we can ensure they will be reached through our outreach programs and persuade them to turn in their ballot.
A change in voting patterns is going to have a tangible effect on this election in Florida. There are three primary take-aways in the shift:
More voters are likely to cast their ballot when they are mailed a ballot in advance. Historically, the party that is able to harness the power of vote-by-mail has a major advantage. Additional time to research choices, remove deterrents like long lines and removing barriers like work and child care preventing people from making it to the polls, allows more voters to exercise their right to vote.
Campaign “get out the vote” efforts are markedly improved when voters have ballots in hand a month in advance. In 2106 and 2018, Florida Republican campaigns have benefited from 30% of their voters voting by mail — reducing the number of voters they need to turn out on election day by more than 1.04 million voters in 2018 and 1.01 million voters in 2018. If these voters eschew vote-by-mail and choose to vote on election day, get out the vote field efforts by GOP campaigns will be tested. Adding hundreds of thousands more voters to election day turnout efforts is a brand new challenge for GOP campaigns across the board. And with Democrats efforts to enroll more voters — particularly low turnout voters — into vote-by-mail the inverse is true for Democratic campaigns.
In Florida, in down-ballot races Democrats have often had the turnout necessary to win majorities in the legislative and municipal level – if the voters who were voting at the top of the ticket, voted all the way down the ballot. But, Democrats don’t. Hundreds of thousands of Democrats vote top of the ticket and leave the rest of the ballot blank.
In 2018, as a result of vote-by-mail enrollment, Florida Democrats were able to decrease drop-off voting in key elections across the state. And when races in Florida are decided by a tenth of a percent, these margins are the difference between victory and defeat.
The work that FDP did to enroll more Democrats into vote-by-mail in 2018 to ensure Democrats voted all the way down the ballot led to Florida Democrats flipping two Congressional seats, securing our first statewide cabinet victory in more than a decade, sending the largest Democratic delegation to Tallahassee in over 20 years, and flipping the county governments in Miami-Dade, Orange County and Hillsborough.
Vote-By-Mail enrollment numbers spell trouble for Republicans in 2020 at the top of the ticket as well as down ballot.
The enrollments are a result of tens of thousands of volunteers making calls, sending mail and text messages — and this level of volunteerism indicates an enthusiasm for Biden and Democrats which should worry the Florida GOP.
In addition, the change in voting patterns and the fact that a large number of Democrats who are not traditional voters are enrolling into vote-by-mail indicates that not only is there enthusiasm on behalf of volunteers and the grassroots — but also enthusiasm to vote on the behalf of Democratic voters.
Voting pattern changes also benefit Democrats as vote-by-mail voters tend to vote all the way down the ballot helping the record number of Democratic candidates who filed to run for office this year. Republican voters move away from vote-by-mail means the Florida GOP is going to be responsible for a massive increase in voters they need to turn out on election day.
There are more than 100 days until people begin voting in Florida, and with Democrats doubling down on vote-by-mail — we expect that the 300,000 vote margin in vote-by-mail enrollment will only grow. This spells trouble for Republicans on election day.