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Florida Dems Executive Director Discusses Florida Primary, Need To Modernize Elections To Handle Crisis Like This

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Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, appeared on CNN with Don Lemon and MSNBC Live to discuss Florida’s Democratic Presidential Preference Primary. In both appearances, Penalosa said we need to expand both vote by mail and early voting to assure people can exercise their right to vote.


On CNN, Peñalosa told Don Lemon

“If we truly believe that our democracy is founded on the principle of one person one vote, we need to update our voting systems to keep up with the times.” Peñalosa continued how we had done so before: “In 2018, Florida Democrats wanted to expand the electorate. We enrolled 500,000 Democrats in to vote by mail programs and it's not a surprise that it worked. In fact, one in four people voted by mail in 2018 who had never voted in a midterm before. “

On MSNBC, Peñalosa discussed Governor Ron DeSantis’s failure to update the public on polling locations and

“We want to do our part. We want to be good partners here. We want to do what we do best which is call on our hundred plus staff and thousands of volunteers across the state to phone bank and text those voters that may be in affected precincts. But until the governor provides the list, we're unable to do so.”


Peñalosa also called for the need to modernize voting systems for the November election -- including expansion of vote-by-mail and early vote sites to “address the unknown unknowns” that are becoming more commonplace.

From the March 16 edition of CNN’s CNN Tonight With Don Lemon:

WATCH HERE


JUAN PEÑALOSA: Florida has a lot of unique characteristics. Florida elections are one of them. There are a few differences. Unlike Kentucky and Puerto Rico which postponed elections today, Florida voters have been casting ballots for a month. 2 million votes have been cast in the state. and unlike places like Nevada and Iowa where the state party runs the election, in Florida, the state bears the burden of the responsibility. 


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If we truly believe that our democracy is founded on the principle of one person one vote, we need to update our voting systems to keep up with the times. We need to modernize them. And it's not radical, we can look at things like expanding vote by mail for example. And in this crisis, voting from the comfort and safety of your home would give a lot of people access to the vote that may be worried to come out and vote on election day tomorrow. 


So just to give you an example, in 2018 Florida Democrats wanted to expand the electorate. We enrolled 500,000 Democrats in to vote by mail programs and it's not a surprise that it worked. In fact, one in four people voted by mail in 2018 who had never voted in a midterm before. 


But instead of celebrating that and expanding [vote-by-mail] to address crises like the one we are in right now, Republicans went to the state legislature two months later and passed laws limiting the enrollment window to vote by mail in the state.  


From the March 15 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live:

WATCH HERE

On Wednesday, the governor -- at the urging of Democratic and Republican legislators -- held a press conference where he outlined resolutions and methods to ensure that our voters are safe. 

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He also called for closures of senior polling places at senior centers at nursing homes so we don't put our most at-risk populations at even more risk. 


The issue we're having in Florida is, while the governor called for the closures on Wednesday, and I think those were prudent actions for him to take and applaud them, he is still not providing a list of polling sites that have been affected for the Florida Democratic Party or other organizations. 


We want to do our part. We want to be good partners here. We want to do what we do best which is call on our hundred plus staff and thousands of volunteers across the state to phone bank and text those voters that may be in affected precincts. But until the governor provides the list, we're unable to do so. 


So in order for our democracy to work, everybody needs to pitch in. But the State Division of Elections, Governor DeSantis, need to uphold their end of the responsibility and provide the information that voters need to vote.