“Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo and former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum”
Special to The Weekly Challenger
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It’s clear the Florida Democratic Party is serious about turning the state blue, judging by the early start of campaign efforts to engage communities of color. The historic jump-start began in May with the launch of Organizing Corps 2020 that pays and trains students of color in targeted regions on crucial field outreach, and voter registration.
Corps members are college students who were trained in Atlanta by national experts, and then returned to Florida to take part in an eight-week program where they were immersed in their communities, learning how to organize.
“This program is crucial to ensuring our nominee is set up for success on day one,” said Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.
Organizing Corps is just one piece of the larger plan for victory in 2020. An aggressive voter registration strategy aims to increase rolls by 200,000 voters and has already surpassed previous efforts during the same period.
The Democrats are working with former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and partner organizations to increase voter registration by a million voters all total.
High voter turnout delivers victory, and Florida Democrats have been guarding against efforts to suppress that vote or efforts to register voters. According to experts, Amendment 4 would add well over 1 million voters to the rolls, the majority of them Democrats.
The amendment allows non-violent felons to register to vote. But, in the spring, the Republicans passed a law dubbed the “poll tax” forcing returning citizens to pay all their fines to register. A recent study shows that 80 percent of those felons who would qualify under Amendment 4 will not be able to vote because of this Republican-backed law.
Meanwhile, the Florida Democratic Party launched a campaign drawing attention to the Republican “poll tax” voter suppression effort dubbed “They did their time. Why pay twice?” It also encourages voter registration and an end to voter suppression.
A week later, Gov. Ron DeSantis took the unusual step of asking the Florida Supreme Court to issue an opinion on whether felons must pay all fines to be eligible to vote.
“There’s something about the restoration of civil rights that just does not sit well with Gov. DeSantis. In five months, he showed himself to us as someone who sees risk in registering people who may not vote Republican,” according to Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo.
DeSantis said he has “the responsibility to take care that the constitution and the laws of Florida are faithfully executed.” He added that he would not infringe on the right to vote under the Florida Constitution.
“Ron DeSantis has one priority, and that’s to deliver Florida to Donald Trump at any price. Our job is to end the nightmare in 2020,” Rizzo said.