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Could 'Souls to the Polls' provide Florida Democrats needed pre-election boost?

'The stakes are high,' Karen Miller, organizer with Faith in Florida, says
Posted at 5:11 PM, Nov 03, 2022

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For Florida Democrats, the chances of avoiding a major defeat next week are getting slimmer and slimmer.

The numbers keep running in the wrong direction for the party as Republicans flood early-voting locations.

But could faith-based events this weekend change the math?

Starting Friday, Faith in Florida will host the bulk of its "Souls to the Polls" events. If you're unfamiliar with the tradition, it entails religious congregations working together to help inform, engage and even transport minority voters to the polls.

While a nonpartisan effort, Democrats often benefit.

"The stakes are high," Karen Miller, an organizer with Faith in Florida, said. "It's imperative that we get to the polls, and we cast our vote. Your vote, your voice."

Miller, and her colleague Tracey Stallworth, said this weekend would be the group's biggest effort of the cycle. More than 800 houses of worship are engaged, and a dozen events are on the calendar. They're spread out amongst Florida's largest cities and rural counties.

"We're mobilizing canvassers," Stallworth said. "We’re mobilizing phone banks. We're getting them out there as well as offering rides to people that need a ride to the precinct to vote. Their vote does matter and it does count."

"Souls to the Polls" likely helped tighten races statewide in 2018, including for governor.

While current Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ultimately won, it was narrow. DeSantis defeated challenger Andrew Gillum with a margin of about 32,000 votes. That's despite a GOP lead of about 59,000 early ballots the weekend before the election.

"I think Florida is proving to be a red state," Helen Ferré, Florida GOP's executive director, said.

But as Republicans, like Ferré, will tell you, the metrics are much different this year.

The party has made inroads with Hispanic voters and exceeded Democrats in voter registration for the first time since at least the 1970s.

Numbers from Thursday afternoon showed the GOP had more than four times the ballot lead it did in 2018 — 247,757 as of about 3:20 p.m.

"This is a rejection of the Biden administration policies," Ferré said. "It is a strong support for conservative values."

Even with a potential "Souls to the Polls" boost, it'll be very difficult for Democrats to overcome their deficit. Though, they are holding onto hope.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, noted online more than 930,000 Democrats in the state had yet to return their mail-in ballots. He pointed out that was more than the population of at least five U.S. states.

"Take your ballot to a drop box at an early voting location, ASAP," Pizzo said.