by Robert Gold, Technology Director, Florida Keys Democrats
The volunteers of the Monroe County Democratic Executive Committee (Keys Democrats) have been working tirelessly all year in support of the best possible outcome on November 3rd. Our leaders are recruiting and managing volunteers, raising money, assisting candidates, and firing up our voters on a daily basis. My job is about information.
In one of my many jobs as Technology Director, I receive and evaluate masses of new data each day that enable us to make strategic decisions on the basis of facts instead of speculation. From the data we receive (which we’re entitled to by law), we know how many votes have been cast, and by whom. And since we know the party of registration (or no party, as the case may be) for each voter, we consider those data on the basis of the premise that the registered Democrats who have voted have voted for Biden, and that the registered Republicans who have voted have voted for Trump. But of course, that premise is false.
What is true is that not all Democrats who have voted did so for Biden, and not all Republicans who have voted did so for Trump. Another false premise is that those registered with no party affiliation (NPAs) are undecided or unsure. Almost all NPAs who vote will vote for either Biden or Trump. But we have scant basis for predicting the rate of party defections or NPA support for either candidate.
Democrats are at a disadvantage in Monroe because there are over 4,600 more registered Republicans than Democrats. Mitigating that (for now) is the fact that turnout among registered Democrats stands today (as of October 23rd) at 55%, compared with 43% for Republicans, and only 31% for among the NPA+ segment. That turnout edge will diminish as we approach Election Day, and may even be entirely erased.
Florida is among the closest tipping point states, and if Trump loses Florida, he has almost no chance to retain the White House. Although it would be satisfying and dramatic for Joe Biden to win an outright majority in Monroe County, the outcome in Monroe is mostly symbolic. What really matters for us is our effect on the state-wide tally. And while we’re a small county in a big state, the painful memory of Bush v. Gore in 2000 reminds us that every single Florida vote matters, a lot. Especially yours.
In 2008, Obama garnered 51.65% of Monroe votes cast, compared with 46.79% for McCain. In 2012, Obama got 49.54% of votes in Monroe, compared with 49.13% for Romney (only a 158 vote difference, a statistical tie). And in 2016, Trump got 50.97% vs. 44.14% for Clinton. The only thing really certain about Monroe outcomes is that the past is not useful in predicting the present.
High turnout this year is being driven in both directions by Trump. Passionate support and passionate contempt for the President is bringing folks out to vote at a prospectively record-setting rate. The surge that we’re seeing in Monroe early voting by Republicans is unsurprising, considering voting patterns in the August primary. Our edge in vote by mail (VBM) ballot returns and the offsetting Republican edge in early voting are timing issues only; votes count exactly the same regardless of whether cast by mail, early, or on election day.
The final tallies in Monroe will boil down to three unpredictable factors: The rate at which registered Republicans who vote aren’t voting for Trump, the rates at which NPAs turn out to vote and favor Biden, and the rates at which Biden and Trump voters turn out on election day.
We’ve already surpassed 70% of Democratic VBM ballots returned. We’ve made tens of thousands of carefully targeted phone calls to encourage voting by mail, returning vote by mail ballots, increased turnout among NPAs, and even to promote GOP defections. We’ve mailed over ten thousand hand-addressed postcards and letters. We’re following up with voters whose VBM ballots were delayed, unsigned, or undelivered, we’re helping voters deliver their VBM ballots, and we’re driving voters to early and Election Day voting. We’ve sent tens of thousands of texts, garnered tens of thousands of clicks on our paid advertising in social media and on high-traffic web sites, maintained our robust and content-rich Facebook page and web site, and raised the large sums of money needed to pay for all these efforts. We have the largest force of volunteers in Monroe since 2008, and by far, the best organized volunteer force here ever.
While we don’t know with certainty what Monroe’s outcomes will be on November 3rd, we are certain of this: we are doing the very best we can. And for that we are both proud and grateful.