Like it or not, here they come…
As a swing state, Florida will be inundated with both political advertisements and visits from the Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R) campaigns. We will live for the next three months with ubiquitous efforts to convince us Floridians to vote in a decisive manner so that the hanging chads and hanging presidential election outcome of 2000 will not be repeated.
Florida is an important electoral state for several reasons:
First, because it takes only 270 votes to win the Electoral College (i.e., half of the 535 total votes plus one) and Florida holds 29 of those votes (only California at 55 and Texas at 38 and have more; NYS has the same at 29), Florida is a powerhouse state.
Second, Florida has a recent history of determining elections as it swings between the Democrats and the Republicans in casting its electoral votes. Of the last 10 elections, Florida has cast its votes for the Democratic nominee four times (in 1976, 1996, 2008, and 2012) and for the Republican nominee six times (in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2004). But the election of 2000 warrants an asterisk because of the constitutional crisis that followed Election Day. Recounting the votes from select Florida precincts was stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court (Bush v. Gore) with the result that Florida’s electors went to George W. Bush. This gave Bush the needed 270 votes for the presidency even though nationally, the popular vote winner was the Democrat Al Gore.
Third, in 2012, Florida’s was the only state whose electoral vote was decided by less than a 1% margin of the vote. In essence, closely contested presidential elections has become our brand.
Finally, because of the events surrounding the contested election of 2000, Florida remains under scrutiny as to whether it can run a clean presidential election.
Given this history, the ads and the pols are coming to the Sunshine State—in droves.
As this cycle of the Fall Campaign begins, there are two things to be aware of:
(1) Negative ads tend to depress voting.
There are ads that are critical of an opponents records and ask voters to think, and then there are “negative ads” that involve name calling, are misleading, or play on voter’s negative emotions like fear or loathing. Viewers may come to hate these ads that sling mud and shed very little light, but politicians can’t seem to help themselves. No matter who starts the negativity first, the general wisdom in politics is that negative ads cannot go unanswered, and so the first punch is almost always met by a counter-punch and on it goes.
The concern for many a political scientist is that such negativity convinces voters that politics is dirty, there is no difference between the two contenders, and that it makes more sense to just stay the hell home rather than encourage this base behavior.
So in essence, negative ads not only hit below the belt; they undermine democracy.
Reader, given this, don’t give in and stay home. Do your research and VOTE.
(2) The rules matter and we need to pay attention in order to have our vote count.
a. You need to be registered in order to vote by October 11. Click here.
b. Any registered voter may use an absentee ballot to vote by mail, but you have to apply for it and the ballot itself must be received by 7pm of Election day. To apply in Sarasota County click here.
c. You can vote early by mail (again, it must be received by 7 pm of Election Day) or by going to an early voting location from opened from 8:30am-6:30 pm daily from October 29-Nov 5. There are seven locations: the three Supervisor of Elections offices in Sarasota, North Port, and Venice, and North County Library, Fruitville Library, Westfield Sarasota Square Mall, and Nokomis Community Center.
d. If you vote in person, you must have a PHOTO ID with you .
It’s required under Florida law although this practice has been voided as unconstitutional discrimination in other states.
e. You need to expect delays at the polls on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8. In some precincts, voters stand for hours waiting to vote. If you don’t have the time or determination to do this, consider the absentee ballot or vote early.
In sum, a checklist for my fellow Floridians:
- Are you registered?
- How and when will you go about casting your vote?
- Are you willing to spread the word, ignore the negative ads, and get the vote out?