By Laurie Swanson, Chair, Mid-Keys Democrats
mid-keys@keysdems.com

This gentleman voted for Biden and 10 Democrats on Friday because we had a sign rally on Thursday. While my fellow Marathon Democrats were basking in the honks, toots and beeps of the energized traffic on Overseas Highway, I was helping him find his license. He had stopped to ask if he could vote with a voter’s registration and license that said he lived in Naples, Florida. I told him that I thought we could make it happen, and we did.

Now I am no stranger to accents, having lived in the Middle East for nearly 30 years, but his Haitian Creole almost outdid my comprehension. This morning we met at the DMV (which has moved) to pursue changes to his address on his driver’s license. About three hours later, after many trips to his aged beige Toyota Camry where he carries his whole life in little pieces of paper stuffed into every nook and cranny, we emerged with a new, updated, and renewed license in hand.

Off to 100th Street and the Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE) to finish off the voter registration. Although the DMV offered to register him to vote, I thought it wiser to go directly to the SOE office next to the Early Vote location to complete our mission. Kathy worked her magic on the computer and in no time at all my new friend was making his way into the poll room to vote.

While he was voting, I straightened our Democrat signs and retrieved a Biden Harris that had rudely been removed to make way for multiple Trump signs. I re-rooted Biden directly in front of a Trump sign.

I then planted myself on the steps and waited for my friend to emerge from voting. He came down the stairs smiling under his mask and told me that he voted for 10 Democrats and Biden. We got the Deputy to snap our picture. I wished him luck. We both drove in our separate directions knowing that our lives will probably never intersect again.

The Florida Keys Democrats offer many kinds of assistance to anyone wanting to vote. Please click here for more information.

by Robert Gold, Technology Director, Florida Keys Democrats
data@keysdems.com

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. 

by Phil Dodderidge, Vice-Chair Florida Keys Democrats

 The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration released an analysis of Republican’s planned cuts to Social Security funding. Under their plan, Social Security would become permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023. Don’t let that happen. Democrats will protect your Social Security.

The Facts

  • The president signed an executive order that suspends the payment of payroll taxes which fund Social Security until the end of the year.

The executive order  halts collection of the 6.2 percent payroll tax imposed on wages for Social Security, starting Sept. 1. After signing the executive order, Trump said several times that he wanted to permanently end payroll taxes.

Aug. 8: “If I’m victorious on November 3rd, I plan to…make permanent cuts to the payroll tax. So, I’m going to make them all permanent.”

Aug. 11: “Payroll tax holiday, that’s a big, and what we’re doing is sometime after the election, if we win, we’re going to make that permanent, the payroll tax holiday. The payroll tax will be rescinded.”

Aug. 12: “On the payroll tax, we’ll be terminating the payroll tax. After I hopefully get elected, we’ll be terminating the payroll tax.”

  • On Aug. 19, four senators wrote to the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, Stephen Goss, asking for “your analysis of hypothetical legislation” that would mandate “zero percent” payroll taxes.  Specifically, they wanted to know how soon the Social Security Trust Funds would be depleted if they suddenly stopped receiving any money.
  • On Aug. 24, the Social Security Chief Actuary letter to Senators Van Hollen, Sanders, Wyden, and Schumer concludes:

“We estimate that OASI (Social Security’s Old Age and Survivors Insurance) Trust Fund reserves would become permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023, with no ability to pay OASI benefits thereafter.”

Discussion

The GOP plan to eliminate payroll taxes that fund Social Security to put more money into the pockets of working Americans may sound like a good idea, in theory. However, in reality, it is a horrible proposal for seniors because these taxes, split between employers and employees, fund Social Security and Medicare.

Employers withhold 6.2 percent of earnings of American workers and contribute another 6.2 percent of an employee’s wages to fund Social Security. “Trump’s payroll tax cut plan not only fails to help Americans struggling to get by right now, it would also completely decimate Social Security for the millions of Americans who rely on it,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland and one of the senators who sent the questions to Goss.

The August 2020 GOP and Trump plan to defund Social Security provides proof that Republicans have lied (again) to the American people in their promise(s) to protect Social Security and Medicare.

  • Despite Trump’s State of the Union pledge—“We will always protect your Medi and Medicare/Medicaid, and we will always protect your Social Security. Always.”—it was less than a week before he unveiled a budget proposal that included cuts to Medicare. The previous year’s budget plan, included cuts to both Medicare, Social Security and other programs seniors rely on. When it comes to supporting seniors, Trump and the GOP have a long history of saying one thing and doing the opposite.
  • Trump, who in 2016 vowed he would never cut entitlements, and supported by the GOP, is arguing in the Supreme Court to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and the protections for people with pre-existing conditions that come with it. It should be noted that should this happen, 8,300,000 Americans who contracted COVID19 would suddenly have a pre-existing condition and be ineligible for health insurance.

Republicans have a long history of proposing reforms to reduce benefit increases for future retirees. Here, however, Trump and the GOP are threatening to pull the plug on current retirees, with no alternative funding mechanism (sort of like his effort to destroy Obamacare with no substitute).  Trump and his GOP enablers are proving, once again, they are not our seniors’ friends.

Conclusion

If the Democrats win the Presidency, Senate, and continue their majority in the House, such a proposal has ZERO chance of making it through Congress.  The safety of Medicare, Social Security, and our seniors is at stake in this election.

by Phil Dodderidge, Vice-Chair Florida Keys Democrats

Six statewide ballot measures were certified for the ballot in Florida in 2020.

HIGHLIGHTS

 Four citizen initiatives are on the ballot. Amendment 1 would state that only citizens can vote in Florida; Amendment 2 would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026; Amendment 3 would establish top-two open primaries; and Amendment 4 would require constitutional amendments to be passed twice.

 The Florida Legislature referred two constitutional amendments concerning property taxes to the ballot.

Amendments 1,5, and 6 are non-controversial. Amendment 2 gradually raises the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by September 2026 with increases tied to the CPI thereafter.  This amendment is supported by the Florida Democratic Party and other pro-worker organizations. It is opposed by business organizations like the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Amendment 3 establishes a “Jungle Primary” system for Florida State elections. It is opposed by both parties, the FL Chamber of Commerce, and black legislators of both parties: Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson. “If you’re for Amendment 3, you’re not for the minority community. Period.”

Amendment 4 changes the process to get constitutional amendments passed from a single ballot initiative to 2 sequential ones. It is opposed by every Democratic Leaning organization in the state and supported by shadow GOP organizations.

Florida 2020 Amendments Summary Table
Monroe DEC Position Title Subject Description
NO

 

Amendment 1 Suffrage Amends the state Constitution to state that only U.S. citizens who are 18 years old or older can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections (already the law)
YES Amendment 2 Minimum wage Increases the state minimum wage to $15 by 2026
NO Amendment 3 Elections Establishes a top-two open primary system (i.e., jungle primary) for state office primary elections
NO Amendment 4 Direct democracy Requires voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election
NO Amendment 5 Taxes Increases the period during which a person may transfer “Save Our Homes” benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years
NO Amendment 6 Taxes Allows a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran

____________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 1, the Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative, is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports amending the Florida Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida.

 

“no” vote opposes amending the Florida Constitution, thus keeping the existing language that says “every citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florid

Amendment 1 would amend Section 2 of Article VI of the Florida Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States who are 18 years old or older are qualified electors in Florida.[1]

  • The Florida Constitution currently says, “Every citizenof the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
  • Under the ballot measure, the Florida Constitution would say, “Only a citizenof the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”

Polling Support 80%

Monroe DEC position – Vote NO

____________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 2, the $15 Minimum Wage Initiative, is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports the initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15 per hour in September 2026.

 

“no” vote opposes the initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15 in September 2026, thereby keeping the current minimum wage of $8.46 per hour.

Amendment 2 would increase the state minimum wage from $8.56 in 2020 to $15.00 in 2026. Under Amendment 2, the state minimum wage would increase each year as follows:[1]

  • $10.00 on September 30, 2021; $11.00 on September 30, 2022; $12.00 on September 30, 2023; $13.00 on September 30, 2024; $14.00 on September 30, 2025; and $15.00 on September 30, 2026. Beginning on September 30, 2027, there would be an annual adjustment to the state minimum wage based on increases to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

Argument For

Florida For a Fair Wage: “Florida needs to pass the Fair Wage Amendment to ensure that all hard-working Floridians can receive a living wage. The ‘living wage’ is the minimum cost that covers the basic needs of an individual and the needs of their family without government assistance. Florida’s minimum wage of $8.46 – or $17,600 per year – for a full-time employee is not a livable wage for many of the 200,000 hard-working Floridians that earn it, especially those working to support a family.”

Argument Against

 Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association: “The proposed ballot initiative to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour has a lot of feel-good appeal, but behind all the warm and fuzzies lie a plethora of unintended consequences. An increase like this would have disastrous impacts on businesses and individuals alike. Business owners will be forced to find solutions to control costs, and these solutions will have a direct impact on our state’s 1.4 million hospitality workers. The most obvious solutions include reducing the number of employees, reducing the number of hours remaining employees work and seeking labor alternatives like automation.”

Monroe DEC position – Vote Yes

____________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 3, the Top-Two Open Primaries for State Offices Initiative is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports establishing a top-two open primary system for primary elections for state legislators, the governor, and cabinet (attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture) in Florida.

 

“no” vote opposes establishing a top-two open primary system for primary elections, thereby leaving in place Florida’s current system where closed primaries are held by each party.

Amendment 3 would change Florida’s primary elections for state legislators, the governor and lieutenant governor, and elected cabinet members (Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Chief Financial Officer) from a closed election to a top-two open primary.[2]

Currently, in Florida, primaries are closed, meaning a voter must be registered with a political party in order to participate in that party’s primary election. Winners of a partisan primary election advance to the general election.

Amendment 3 would replace closed primaries with top-two primaries in which all candidates would be placed on one ballot regardless of political affiliation and the top two candidates with the most votes would advance to the general election. A candidate’s party affiliation may appear on the ballot as provided by law. The primaries would also be open, meaning any registered voter, regardless of their political affiliation, could vote in the primary election.

Under Amendment 3, in cases where only two candidates qualify for the primary election, the primary would be canceled, and the election winner would be decided in the general election. If approved by 60% of voters at the 2020 general election, the top-two open primary system would be used beginning in 2024.

Argument For

“For the first time in decades, the voters of Florida will have the chance to decide for themselves whether to let all voters vote. Not surprisingly, the Democrat and Republican Parties don’t want them to have that choice. Leadership of both parties has attacked the campaign and filed court papers to sabotage it, declaring that it ‘confuses voters,’ and ‘takes away voter choice.’ Make no mistake, they are united against letting the voters decide.”

Argument Against

People Over Profits: “An unforeseen outcome of this proposal is the loss of minority representation in both legislative chambers. … Under Amendment 3, both electoral access and representation of people of color would be all but erased. … [t]he inclusion of Republican and independent voters in a Black majority district would allow white Democratic candidates the opportunity to defeat a Black Democrat in the context of a larger general election electorate. … The amendment would all but eliminate third parties from competing in the November general election.”

Monroe DEC position – Vote No

 _______________________________________________

Florida Amendment 4, the Require Constitutional Amendments to be Passed Twice Initiative, is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports requiring voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election to become effective.

 

“no” vote opposes requiring voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election to become effective.

Amendment 4 would require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at two successive general elections to become effective. Currently in Florida, if voters approve an amendment at one general election, it becomes part of the constitution.

In Florida, constitutional amendments require a 60% supermajority vote to become effective. This requirement was added to the constitution in 2006. Under Amendment 4, the supermajority requirement would apply to both elections.

Argument For

Keep Our Constitution Clean PC: “By doing pass-it-twice, we think we can reduce the amount of … whimsical constitutional amendments. [In Florida], there have been more than 140 constitutional amendments [since the 1960s]. The United States Constitution, which has been around since the 1700s, has been amended 27 times.

Argument Against

The Florida Democratic Party urges the voters of Florida to protect the power they have to overrule career politicians and big-money special interests and to VOTE AGAINST AMENDMENT 4 (Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments).

Monroe DEC position – Vote No

___________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 5, the Florida Extend “Save Our Homes” Portability Period Amendment, is on the ballot in Florida as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

A “yes” vote supports extending the period during which a person may transfer Save Our Homes benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.

 

A “no” vote opposes extending the period during which a person may transfer Save Our Homes benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.

Homesteads, or primary residences, are subject to property taxes in Florida, which must be assessed at just value, except that every primary residence is eligible for a $25,000 homestead exemption. Another $25,000 homestead exemption is applied to homesteads that have an assessed value of more than $50,000 up to $75,000. The homestead exemption reduces the taxable value of a property.

Amendment 10 of 1992, a citizen initiative known as the “Save Our Homes Amendment”, limited homestead property valuation increases for homes receiving a homestead exemption to a maximum of 3% annually. Voters approved the measure in a vote of 54% to 46%. The difference between the just value and the assessed value is referred to as the Save Our Homes (SOH) benefit.

Argument For

Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board: “People who sell their houses covered by a homestead exemption have two years to move into a new house and carry that tax break along with them. Except they really don’t. … To transfer the Save Our Homes exemption, Florida law says a homeowner must have “received a homestead exemption as of Jan. 1 of either of the two immediately preceding years.” So someone could easily miss out by selling a home late in the year and then building a new home that isn’t finished by New Year’s of the year after next — in other words, after only a year and a few days had passed. … This simple change means that the Constitution would reflect what voters intended, that homeowners could take their exemption with them for two full years or more — and not lose it in the space of a year and a few days. Lawmakers should put this sensible change on the ballot, and voters should approve the amendment in November.”

This amendment was passed unanimously in the Fl House and Senate to be put on the ballot, March 2020

Argument Against

Monroe DEC position – Vote no.  Specific taxes have no place in the State Constitution. The appropriate place for this to happen is laws passed by legislation.

___________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 6, the Homestead Property Tax Discount for Spouses of Deceased Veterans Amendment, is on the ballot in Florida as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

A “yes” vote supports allowing a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.

 

A “no” vote opposes allowing a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.

This amendment would allow a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran. The discount would be in effect until the spouse remarries, sells, or otherwise disposes of the property. If the spouse sells the property and does not remarry, the spouse’s new primary residence may receive a homestead tax discount not exceeding the dollar amount from the most recent ad valorem tax roll. The amendment would take effect January 1, 2021.[1]

Currently, the homestead property tax discount for veterans expires upon their death and is not extended to their spouses.

Argument For

The measure was passed unanimously in both chambers of the Florida State Legislature, March 2020.

Argument Against

Monroe DEC position – Vote no.  Specific taxes have no place in the State Constitution. The appropriate place for this to happen is laws passed by legislation.

by John Howe

I’m sure most Americans, especially the friends and families of the more than 200,000 Americans (and counting) who have died from COVID-19, don’t like hearing President Trump say, over and over, that he has the virus “under control.”

For more than a month after scientists told him about it, Trump wasted precious time (and American lives) flip-flopping between praising and criticizing China’s response, imposing slipshod China travel restrictions, calling the pandemic a “hoax,” and insisting that it would magically “disappear” without a vaccine. A Columbia University study later estimated that 36,000 American lives would have been saved if broad social distancing had started only a few weeks earlier.

Trump then suggested injecting disinfectants and hyped hydroxychloroquine as a possible therapeutic, even after medical experts warned that both treatments would be dangerous. He threatened to withhold funding from the World Health Organization. He urged local economies and schools to reopen before it was safe to do so, recklessly ignoring guidelines developed by his own administration’s experts at the Centers for Disease Control.

After many weeks of deriding masks, again ignoring medical science, Trump reluctantly decided he wouldn’t look too bad wearing one, but only as an optional accessory, not a public health requirement.

Meanwhile, he refused to fully invoke the Defense Production Act and develop a national strategy for actually dealing with the virus. Instead he dumped that huge challenge on states and municipalities that don’t have the vast resources of the federal government, dooming them to squabble over scarce supplies of test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

As of August 28, the United States, with only four percent of the world’s population, had by far the most COVID-19 cases of any country. No wonder most Americans, including many Republicans, don’t trust anything Trump says about this unprecedented national disaster and epic personal failure that he’s still trying to dodge. It’s now up to the rest of us to “stop this nonsense” (as Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation’s top epidemiologist, has politely suggested), beat back the virus, then fully restore our economy, with mutual respect, true grit, and dependable science.

Fake News: “False news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared online for the purpose of generating ad revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.” 

–Time Magazine

Tips to spot Fake News

There has been an explosion of misinformation and conspiracy theories on the web, amplified by social media, about COVID19 and current events. Online rumors and misinformation have created confusion, chaos and some hoaxes have induced violence with loss of life. To discern today’s online experience, multiple studies have suggested everyone needs to be digital media literate with the ability to evaluate information on various digital platforms.

To counter Fake News, Sarah Blakeslee and her team of librarians at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico) developed the CRAAP test as a guide to discern whether or not a web item is Fake News. It has become widely used by higher education librarians at universities to educate incoming students about Fake News.

The CRAAP test aims to make it easier for everyone, not just educators and students, to determine if their sources can be trusted. By employing the test while evaluating sources, anyone can reduce the likelihood of using unreliable information or fake news.

In researching sources for this blog post, I found that one of the best compendium of articles, infographics and videos about fake news is a web site developed by Madison Area Technical College.  It has resources to explain why Fake News is created, tips for spotting Fake News, CRAAP test, fact checking and other topics related to Fake News. Miami Dade College also has a good web site about Fake News as well. Facebook which is known to be fertile digital grounds for viral misinformation spread, has taken some steps to educate users to identify false information.  Their “Tips to Spot False News” consists of ten strategies readers can use to identify misleading stories.

Election 2020 and Fake News

Staying informed online for election information has its risks. Unlike a print publisher, digital news providers can observe, store, and analyze your every news choice, how long you interacted with it, whether you shared it and what you did after viewing it. With such data, it can filter what you see, showing you more content that aligns with your worldview—essentially putting you in your very own “news bubble.”

BEWARE – Sometimes this filtering leads readers to made-up or fake news, such as stories about 5G cellphone towers found to cause COVID-19(!) or that drinking bleach kills the virus (it does not!!!).  Facebook and other social media have taken steps to identify such hoaxes, but more are posted every day and some get past their filters. Also, they get millions of “likes” from users.

Using the CRAAP test and other digital media literacy tools, we can inspect election news for accuracy and validity.