The Democrats turnout problem in Florida is serious and could get worse

By Tom Arthur from Orange, CA, United States (vote for better tape) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tom Arthur from Orange, CA, United States (vote for better tape) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

As we discussed Tuesday night on our Rabble.TV Election Coverage  and on this site, Democrats cast approximately 700,000 fewer ballots in Florida this Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) than Republicans did. This is despite the fact that  Florida has more registered Democrats than Republicans and minority turnout was impressive in Florida, with over half the ballots in the Democratic PPP being cast by persons of color. But while minority participation is up and that’s a good thing for democracy Democrats are lagging behind Republicans in creating enthusiasm and turnout mechanisms.

Minority voter turnout cannot be taken for granted either as we learned in 2014 when Charlie Crist did not win the Governorship thanks in large measure to President Obama punting on immigration reform. That decision done in accord with the Democratic establishment’s desire to placate the conservative electorate in Louisiana, Alaska and Arkansas was major factor in why Hispanics in 2014 were only 13% of the Florida electorate as compared to 17% in 2012. The Democrats lost all three Senate seats the immigration punt was designed to save AND got beat here in Florida, a state which would likely have been won without it. This demonstrated that sacrificing minority votes for whiter more conservative ones does not work either.

In 2008, Republicans did cast more ballots in their PPP than Democrats – but just 200,000 more and the GOP Primary was a binding contest awarding delegates (half as many as 2012 and 2016 it should be noted though due to a violation of RNC rules) unlike the Democrats where a prohibition on campaigning in Florida was instituted and delegates were not counted based on the primary, thus creating a disincentive for voter turnout. So this election cycle the GOP more than tripled the advantage in ballots cast vs the Democrats in a contest that WAS binding unlike 2008. That’s a stunning statistic that I would love to hear Florida’s Democrats try and spin.

Democrats have an enthusiasm problem and turnout problem on the left. Hillary Clinton whether he die-hard backers want to believe it or not generates little excitement among the types of people that have been needed to turn out to win Democrats elections in this millennium. Bill Clinton when he was elected benefited in many ways from a depressed turnout and an electorate that was sick of the GOP – first for controlling the White House for too long and second for the perceived excesses after the Congressional takeover of 1994. While Donald Trump’s polarizing language might provide the impetus for fear-based turnout in 2016, it cannot be counted on. Chances are quite good that Clinton as a nominee will not stimulate the type of excitement President Obama did, and given the massive dropoff in Democratic Primary turnout relative to GOP turnout in the Florida PPP we have empirical evidence now that enthusiasm is lower among Democrats than among Republicans.

A state of denial exists in some quarters about this obvious reality. The country has moved left on economic issues over the course of the last decade, but the Democratic Party instead of embracing the themes of the Sanders insurgency has opted to try and script the process and play business as usual.  Voters are showing their dissatisfaction with the Democrats by not turning out and even if Clinton wins because of a weak GOP nominee the current malaise WILL impact down ballot races. It is worth reminding our readers at this point that the Democrats hold a smaller percentage of state legislative seats nationally today than any time since the 1920’s.

Below in the comment section, I would love to hear from our readers and others active on the left as to what needs to be done to create excitement and turnout for 2016 other than simply demonizing Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. We’re all ears!


  1. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz · ·

    This blog rightly points out an “under participation rate” for Florida Democrats but the “official” Democratic leadership at the County Committee retiree West Broward communities n Young Democrats is in denial. Read a certain blog read by knowledeable people n see blog by “activists” stating THERE IS NO PROBLEM despite the facts presented on this blog.


  2. Poor grassroots effort by the Democrats

    Little voter registration by DECs

    in-difference from the DNC towards activists

    Arrogance of Debbie Wasserman Schultz

    Anger on the right about this Administraton and our unwillingness to similarly use our president to build infrastructure

    All these Mr. Kartik are reasons.


  3. Mike Coleman · ·

    When the media devotes the vast preponderance of it’s attention to covering one political party’s primary campaign in what may measure out to be an 80/20 ratio (purely a guesstimate) the party that got short shrift must surmise there are lessons to be learned.

    We were made aware of the value of earned media which may be even more valuable than advertising itself, airtime and column inches coming from media sources are precious to parties and work wonders for voter turnout.

    The value of that media overexposure was a major driver of the overall turnout differential.
    Let’s not forget the highest voter turnout was Hillary Clinton’s even though more Republicans voted in this most recent primary.

    In the past 9 months Donald Trump consumed the media’s attention while demonstrating the fallacy of the Republican Party’s core beliefs that conservative policy was a powerful force in these United States.

    He did it on the media’s dime and the exposure he received appeared to immunize him from millions in paid advertising against him and his positions.

    He preaches a peculiar form of hatred and fear with combined with a terrible tax plan plus positive words about many of the issues that are decidedly non conservative but absolutely populist in nature.
    This hate filled anti “blame others” form of populism while captured nearly half of the closed Republican Primary Voters ballots.

    This messaging that appealed to the worst in human nature plus stating the obvious failures of Republican orthodoxy and their foreign policy showed just how disconnected the Republican party from it’s own constituents. Trumps turnout emphasized the Republican Party has no real idea what appeals to its membership although but hate speech and blaming others appears to be a sure Republican mainstay.

    If we paid attention we learned a great deal from this experience.
    Can we Democrats apply the lessons we have just been given immediately and in the future?

    Winning in November depends upon learning and applying our recent media education as well as Democrats working together by undertaking a strong grassroots ground game while earing free media every hour of everyday.


  4. Ron Baldwin · ·

    Joe was trying to cheer up Bill who was very depressed. Joe said, “Cheer up Bill, things could be worse. And Bill cheered up, proving Joe was right. Things did get worse. That sounds like the Democratic Party. Say hello to President Trump.

    Or put another way – “Turnout? We don’t need no stinkin turnout.”


  5. Jim jackson · ·

    As always your take is spot on. Every voter in the state of Florida should read this., time and again. The Florida State Democratic Party cannot fundraise, they are nor recruiting good candidates to run in the next 5 or 10 years, nor can they GOatV! The Republicans have fundraising, candidate recruitment , and GOTV drives down as good as it can get. President Obama was a transformational candidate while he was running but did not act swiftly enough to utilize his presidential capital quickly enough. I have been a Democract all if my life. Yes I am a a Bernie supporter. Math, but not excitement stands in his way. In Florida it will be the Independents that carry the state for candidates. Great read. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A reason for optimism?

    “Through a new super PAC named Immigrant Voters Win, the campaign is funding organizations in states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, which have large or growing Latino and Asian communities, in the hope of influencing turnout in November, the Times reported.

    Trump shot to the front of the Republican presidential field last year by proposing a hard-line immigration policy. The Hungarian-born Soros is contributing $5 million of his own money to the campaign.

    People involved in the effort told the Times that it is the largest Democratic-voter turnout effort campaign to target Latinos and immigrants. The goal is to have a minimum of 400,000 new voters by the general election in November.”


  7. Torrey Craig · ·

    How many campaigns have you worked on? Me? I can’t count that high but forsure I don’t have that many white hairs. Something I like doing is collecting campaign button. I think this should our new generic button … You obviously have me confused with someone who cares.

    All of us routinely fail to motivate our fellow Democrats to vote. Why??? That is the sixty four thousand dollar question but the results speak for themselves. We saw the lack of motivation earlier this week and I suggest we will see a similar level of participation in the August primary. Go back and look at the 2014 participation level which was miserable. There is no universal driver that motivates people what we are seeing is complacency.

    I suggest our friends in the Republican party where equally complacent, Donald Trump doesn’t stand a change in hell. Today the leadership of the Republicans isn’t complaence. We need to have a fire in the belly. We must move forward in a coordinated fashion so we can keep the White House and retake the Senate. Also we must have viable serious candidates who can mount a real campaign in each and every House district.

    In two very short years we must have a full slate of solid candidates not only for Gov but also all the other state wide positions as well as all legislative seats.

    In order for us to be successful our fellow Dems must want to go to the polls and elect fellow Dems. Backbiting and finger pointing won’t help our cause.


  8. George Gonzalez · ·

    Being a Progressive this is a big concern for me as I watched the difference in amount of voters. Though I have no prove I’d like to believe we didn’t turn out in the primary because we will vote for either candidate in the general. However I am concerned that Clinton’s polarization of many Democrats and the new millennial voters Sanders is attracting will stay home when she becomes the Democratic Candidate. I believe this is why Sanders is shown beating all Republicans in a general and Clinton struggles. If Democrats do not convince all of their voters that not turning out regardless of our candidate will be disastrous for Americans it will be time to move out of the country because religious zealots, bigots and racists will use their power to oppress our society and force the rest of us to live as second class citizens and slaves to the 1%.


  9. The FLDEM party embrace of Crist over Nan Rich for governor seems to have been forgotten.. A great many lifelong Democrats were demoralized when the party did not insist on a debate between Nan Rich and Charlie Crist. Crist and the FLDEM party treated Rich like a hindrance. That sort of treatment of loyal democrats depresses turnout. What is the point of being a lifelong loyal Democrat if some new shiny person waltzes in and then life long regulars are cast aside. This would also apply to just turned DEM Bernie.

    The treatment of Nan Rich needs to be repaired or suffer enthusiasm.
    Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. Maybe a campfire song, but true. FLDEMS do not keep the old friends.


  10. Never understood why someone wouldn’t vote… Civic duty, people.


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