Chair Teresa Jenkins’ address to Charlotte County Dems on May 3rd

Editor’s note:  On Monday, May 3rd,  64 Charlotte County Democrats gathered in person and via Zoom to attend our monthly meeting.  Our chair opened the evening with an inspirational and educational briefing.  It is shared here for all Dems to read her wise words.

In tonight’s report, I want to highlight the 2021 legislative session that thankfully ended on Friday

First, let’s all thank Laurie Ulrop and Karen Fisk for their hard work and tenacity in keeping us informed and urging us to make calls to our legislators to try and stop the policy wreckage.

And turn to your neighbor and thank them for making phone calls and for those of you watching at home give yourself a pat on the back for all that you did to stop the shameful legislative work coming out of Tallahassee.

This week, the Charlotte County Democratic Party leaders will meet to review our progress toward the action items we agreed to take this year in preparation for the 2022 election. Unfortunately, we’ll need to modify and add to our list of things to do as a result of this horrendous legislative session.

First, we have to deal with the anti-riot H.B. 1 bill which is a racially motivated attack on our first amendment rights.  A lawsuit has already been filed by a social justice group in Orlando federal court.

We’ll all suffer for the sole purpose of allowing DeSantis to have his law and order talking points on Fox News. Your local Party has always put your safety first as we have gathered with others to express our opinions or our dissent.

Hopefully we’ll be getting guidance from the Florida Democratic Party on how to exercise our first amendment rights without causing any of our members harm while this law is being challenged in court.

Also passed are new regulations on social media platforms with fines up to $250,000 for censoring a politician. This basically protects hate speech and may or may not have an impact on what we do on social media.

Because Republicans were angry over how many Democrats voted by mail last year, they’re cracking down on mail ballots and are creating a number of hurdles when it comes to voting by mail as well as the use of drop boxes. The legislation would allow one partisan poll watcher per candidate on the ballot during the inspection of votes.

This makes it even more imperative that we locate Democrats to run for all seats next year, since without a Democratic candidate we don’t get to have an attending poll watcher.   The bill would also make it a misdemeanor to hand out food, water or election-related material, which is a common practice in the South.

But let’s keep a few things in mind when it comes to voting by mail:

  • in 2020, 35% of Florida Republican voters voted by mail;
  • most GOP narrow victories in FL have been the result of VBM ballots – Scott defeated Bill Nelson by a little over 10,000 votes while DeSantis defeated Gillum by a little over 32,000 votes – both parties will be affected by the change in VBM;
  • Democrats voted by mail in big numbers last year primarily because of fear of the coronavirus and a push by local parties to enroll all Democrats in vote by mail – whether they vote by mail in 2022 in similar numbers is a big question; and
  • this bill not only targets newly registered voters, young voters, Democrats, and African Americans who voted by mail in November due to health concerns; but it also will affect senior citizens of both parties. In Charlotte County there are more registered Republicans over the age of 65 than there are Democrats and NPAs.

There are many other repercussions that we will have to weigh including potentially longer lines on election day and during early voting.

Editor’s note:  On May 6th, the NAACP the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, challenging this new law that greatly obstructs voting access. Read more here.

And there are a few other bills that stand out for their sheer cruelty and overreach:

  • The Republicans revived a bill that we all thought was dead regarding transgender athletes. They crammed into a charter school bill a ban on transgender female athletes competing in girls’ and women’s high school and college sports.
  • They pandered to the anti-vaxxer crowd and banned vaccine passports;
  • they tried to fool us into thinking they were doing something special by raising the vaping age from 18 to 21. But that’s already federal law; and
  • they expanded school vouchers so more parents can send their children to private schools at public expense.

Many preemption bills were passed so that Tallahassee can control everything cities and counties do from guns to energy policy to seaports to home-based businesses. So, if you want to fight city hall, go to Tallahassee.

This year marks the 25th year of Republican control of both houses of the Legislature. Let’s end that streak at the ballot box, starting next year.

But with all of this we have good news: President Biden’s address to Congress last week outlined many policies that will help so many Americans: from day care to investments in broadband, to free community college to creating more jobs. And what about Madam Speaker and Madam Vice President!

And lastly, seeing so many of you here this evening is a sign that we’re getting back to normal. Some aren’t comfortable yet meeting in person, while others are beginning to resume all activities as long as they’re vaccinated.

And because we are feeling more comfortable with resuming our activities, now is a good time to ask your friends and neighbors to join the Party. You’ve heard the obstacles that have been placed before us – but we won’t let stop us.

However, we need more volunteers to do voter registration, to serve as precinct captains, to help communicate our values and how President Biden is helping struggling families and we’ll need more poll watchers.

So, tonight is a time to celebrate but it’s also a time to get re-energized and recruit volunteers so that we are well prepared for all that we must do in 2022, when we will turn Florida blue.