Orange County stands alone among large Florida counties for its strong and effective progressive infrastructure. Despite repeated efforts by the Legislature to dilute the voting power of minorities and non-Republicans in the county, the area continues to become more and more progressive. We have through the past few months featured stories on progressive efforts throughout the state but this weekend before a CRITICAL local election in Orange County we feel it is important progressives throughout Florida recognize the tremendous efforts being made on the ground in Central Florida.
With an infrastructure that has been built unlike any other major urban Florida county for progressive causes in the past several years, Orange County has become an epicenter of positive movement and organization.
The VOTE LOCAL project is a collaborative grassroots effort from the Orange Rising Coalition which includes: Black Women’s Roundtable, Community Business Association, Communication Workers of America 3108, Central Florida AFL-CIO, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Emerge USA, Equality Florida, Federation of Churches United to Serve, Fight for 15 Florida, Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Florida Consumer Action Network, Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment, Florida New Majority, Fraternal Order of Police Florida State Lodge, Mi Familia Vota, National Congress of Black Women, National Council of La Raza Action Fund, Organize Now, Faith in Florida, Puerto Rican Leadership Council, Transit Riders Union, UNITE HERE Local 362.
The collation worked hard beginning last year to knock on door, activate voters and then remind voters about the August 26th primary. This effort will likely lock in new voters in a long-term for state and local elections. In time this creates a greater base of voters, activists and leaders for progressive causes and candidates. As we discussed earlier this week in the guest editorial by Stephanie Porta, the battle on Earned Sick Time has helped to activate the grassroots in Orange County in a positive way.
That Grassroots activism allowed the citizens of Orange County to push for charter changes while the County Commission was busy politicking rather than working hard for the people of the county. Commissioner Fred Brummer, who many of our readers will remember from his time as arguably the most conservative member of a very right-of-center State House proposed in February to eliminate certain countywide elected offices potentially consolidating more power in the hands of a conservative Board of County Commissioners and County Mayor. But Orange County citizens fought back and were able to push for a charter change to appear on the ballot that will ensure partisan elections for county offices, something that will help inform voters in making a truly informed decision at the polls. But the Commission is still trying to find ways to combine proposals and dilute the impact of the proposed citizen initiative Charter change.
Less information on the ballot has always favored the big money interests including Disney who we discussed this morning in reference to the HD-61 race
. When voters are presented with less information on the ballot, the candidate with the most money has a clear advantage with voters who aren’t engaged politically on a daily basis. Conservative oriented Special interests like the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity have begun targeting local races which are non-partisan – for instance, school board races in Denver, Wisconsin and North Carolina –and therefore, more easy to hide the core principles of the candidates behind slick advertising campaigns. Simply providing more information on the ballot prevents special interests from misrepresenting the candidates’ principles and views.
Similarly Orange County (and other counties) that choose the most important County Commission and Constitutional/Charter offices in August or September Primary elections when turnout is lower continues to be a problem. Locking in a political advantage for incumbents and entrenched Special Interests is much easier in August low-turnout election then in November high-interest ones.
We’ve stressed previously on this site how Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee since 2002, have creatively used the reapportionment process to protect white conservative incumbents in Central Florida by drawing convoluted districts that dilute votes and break up communities of interest. Similarly Orange County based conservatives have worked hard to lock-in the institutional advantages they have created for themselves over time despite a county that changed dramatically and if all things were remotely equal may not elect the sorts of people that are in office today.
The work on the grassroots level in Orange County has been phenomenal. We will continue to update our readers on the progress of the proposed Charter changes as well as Tuesday’s election results.