Voting is important

Tuesday was a horrible night for me personally. I saw great potential in Andrew Gillum as the next governor of Florida. It did not happen.

My sisters, some friends, so many people have come up asking why. “What happened?” they ask. “I was sure he was gonna win,” they tell me. 

I was convinced he would win too. Of course, we’re referring to Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee who lost a paper-thin-close race by less than one percentage point to former congressman Ron DeSantis, who banked on a Donald Trump tweet in the summer to win the Republican nomination, and then won with the help of the president here in the third largest state in the country. 

Before I explain why I think Gillum lost, we must take our hats off to Trump who was the really big winner here in Florida. He may have lost all around the country, especially when it comes to the House of Representatives, but in Florida he managed to push through DeSantis, and helped Rick Scott wrest the Senate seat from incumbent Bill Nelson. He proved that parts of Florida love Donald Trump and everything he stands for. What I mean by that, I will let you decipher.

As for Gillum, he ran what I consider to be a great race. A modern race entwined with good old fashioned grassroots politics. But his loss proved to me, once again, that votes do matter. And we live in a system that prides itself on voting, and when 62 percent of registered voters turn out, we see it as massive participation. But consider the fact that in Florida this week 38 percent of registered voters did NOT participate, add to that the fact that almost half of eligible voters are NOT registered to vote, and we’re talking of about half of the voter-eligible population that does NOT vote — ever. And when the elections are smaller, that 50 percent number goes way lower…

Here’s the catch then. In Florida on Tuesday almost 8 million persons voted. That’s about 62 percent. OK, pretty good, we say. 

So why did Gillum lose? Add Sen. Nelson and any other Democrat on the ticket running for state office. 

The counties in Florida with the largest number of registered Democrats are Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. All three in South Florida. Let us look at Miami-Dade and Broward. I did. Turnout in those two key counties was 56 percent. In other words, we lagged six percentage points behind the rest of the state.

Which drove me to look at the actual numbers. And I will be rounding numbers for the sake of this column. In Miami-Dade Gillum garnered 60 percent of the votes. (By the way, any Cuban who tells you they won the election for DeSantis is full of it…) Broward County was even better. Gillum won there by 70-30.  

Just in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, based on those established tendencies, Gillum lost 45,956 votes for lack of Democrats going out to vote. I am not even counting the No Party Affiliation voters and even some Republicans not happy with DeSantis and the president. In the end, Gillum lost the election by a little more than 50,000 votes in a state where 8 million voted.

As you can see, voting is important. Especially if you expect to win.

For decades now I have devoted part of my professional life to convincing eligible voters to register, and then vote — in every election, not matter how unimportant they might think it is. At times I have thought I’ve done great work. Over the years I have helped register and turnout thousands of new voters due to my (and many I’ve worked with) efforts. Other times I feel I have failed. I have not convinced enough people how important voting can be in this country. 

The election(s) last night again proved that if you want your candidate to win, you must vote. Many didn’t.

One last thought. For those who felt as bad as I did last night and this morning, I mentioned the Arrive with 5 campaign recently — where not only do you vote, but you bring five others to do so also. This type of work must become part of the fabric of voting for all of us interested in making this country what we expect it to be. 

If not, well, we’ve got a president, and now a governor in Florida, as well as a new U.S. senator, who have put civility, common decency and other important human factors on the bottom of their priority lists. And since they all claim to love their Bible, I will remind them of Matthew 25:31-46 where the Lord tells the likes of Trump, DeSantis and Scott: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

That’s why I will finish with what I’ve already written: Voting is important. And your vote does matter.