TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Democrats vowed Monday the fight for registered voters was far from over, announcing a multi-million dollar effort to reclaim their margin over Republicans ahead of the consequential midterm elections.
State Democrats have started 2022 with a voter registration deficit of more than 43,000. That is a first in state history.
Florida Democrats Party Chair Manny Diaz said there was no doubt that members took their foot off the gas.
"We have let our guard down — especially during off years," Diaz said. "The other side has eaten away at our margins. That's not going to happen anymore."
Diaz said the party, minority leaders in the Florida House and Senate, plus third-party group Florida Alliance have started a $2.5 million plan to change things. The initiative aims to create a year-round registration effort that won't stop on Election Day.
"This is a statewide effort designed to help Democrats all over the state of Florida," Diaz said.
Officials didn't offer many details other than to say they were targeting key markets and would need hundreds of canvassers across the state, with Hispanic voters playing a vital role.
University of South Florida political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus said Democrats would have their work cut out for them. The party, she said, often suffers in midterms and lacks the turnout of Republicans.
"The urgency of getting on with it is huge, but the time is short and things are different," MacManus said. "There's a good bit of voter fatigue at the moment, disinterest in politics."
The USF professor emerita believed in order to achieve success, Democrats would have to overcome that fatigue, lingering debate on COVID-19 mitigation and try to engage younger voters on college campuses.
"Putting a lot of money into it and effort and working it is essential to the future of Florida Democrats," she said. "They know it."
Republicans, meanwhile, continue to tout their lead.
Florida's governor announced it last November and attributed the change to frustration with Democratic leadership.
"I think it's fleeing the restrictions, fleeing the lawlessness and the crime," Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a speech to the National Conference of State Legislatures. "I think you're seeing people move to states that value freedom."
Time will tell if the GOP maintains its lead as the Oct. 11 registration deadline looms, now about eight months away.
No-party voters also grew in 2021, up about 76,000 over the previous year. That pot of more than 3.8 million voters will be crucial in deciding the victors on Election Day.