The Politics of Race and the Florida Gubernatorial Election of November 2018

Sep 27, 2018
9:57 AM

A new study released this week from the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY looked into Florida’s latest voter registration data from July to provide an actual statistical profile of the actual registered electorate and examine whether Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has a chance to become the state’s first African-American governor.

“The report shows that if Democratic constituencies register by the rapidly approaching October 9 deadline and turn out to vote at higher rates than in November 2016, Gillum has a realistic chance of making history,” a release about the study stated.

“The Florida governor’s race encapsulates precisely the dilemma alluded to by President Obama when he said the biggest threat to our democracy is ‘apathy’ among voters,” said the report’s author Laird W. Bergad, director of CLACLS and a distinguished professor at Lehman College and The Graduate Center. “African Americans, Latinos, and younger voters are the groups that heavily support Democratic candidates, so they are critical to Andrew Gillum’s quest to make history by becoming Florida’s first African-American governor. But they also have had significantly lower voter-registration and turnout rates than older white Floridians. This report explains how and why Mr. Gillum will make history if these groups register and vote in the general election.”

The report noted that voting rates among Democratic constituencies were the lowest in Florida during the November 2016 presidential election. In 2016, African Americans were only 51 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. For Latinos, that turnout was just 54 percent of Latinos, 40 percent for Asians, and 37 percent of voters of all races between 18 and 24 years old. In contracts, 64 percent of non-Hispanic whites in 2016 overwhelmingly voted Republican.

Other findings from the report include the following:

  • “Andrew Gillum is using an innovative strategy to win the election. Recognizing that white conservatives and those in largely rural regions of the state are going to vote for his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, irrespective of anything he does, Gillum has decided to focus his efforts on mobilizing traditional Democratic voters: progressive, non-Hispanic whites; African Americans; Hispanics; and young people. Unfortunately, these cohorts of the voting population have had comparatively lower voter registration and participation rates than white conservative older voters who won the state for the current president in 2016.”
  • “A critical factor in Florida and elsewhere is registration rates. Nearly 71 percent of the state’s non-Hispanic whites were registered to vote in 2016 compared to 55 percent of African Americans, 62 percent of Hispanics and only 50.4 percent of the Asian population. Thus, raising the registration rate among large swaths of the African-American and Hispanic populations will in all likelihood translate into higher voting rates among these critical sectors of Democratic support. If this occurs, Mr. Gillum has a realistic possibility of winning the election.
  • “Had the voting rate been higher among Democratic constituencies, the result of the Florida presidential election 2016 would have been different. Mr. Gillum’s strategy is precisely to mobilize these potential Democratic voters while seeking to make history by becoming Florida’s first African-American governor. Nearly 64 percent of eligible non-Hispanic white voters went to the polls in 2016, and they supported the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate by a margin of 64 percent to 32 percent, respectively. By contrast, only 50.5 percent of Florida’s African Americans voted, but they supported the Democratic over the Republican candidate by a margin of 84 percent to 8 percent, according to exit polls. Finally, 54 percent of eligible Florida Latinos went to the polls in November 2016 and voted for the Democratic over the Republican candidate by a margin of 64 percent to 32 percent.”
  • “Another factor analyzed is the age structure of the voting population. A Gillum victory is possible if younger Floridians go to the polls in greater numbers in November 2018. In 2016, voters between 18 and 24 years of age of all races supported the Democratic candidate by a margin of 63 percent to 27 percent. They had, however, the lowest voter participation rates in the state. Only 37 percent of eligible voters in this age cohort voted compared with 70 percent of voters 65 years of age and older.”

The full study is below: