FLORIDA 27 Electoral Votes

Florida continued to be a crucial state in 2004, evidenced by the fact that President Bush held his first full-fledged rally of the campaign at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando on March 20, 2004 and by the numerous visits that the candidates and their wives made to the Sunshine State in subsequent months.

The Sunshine State is the third fastest growing state in the nation, having gained more than a million new people since 2000 (population increased from 15.9 million on April 1, 2000 to an estimated 17.0 million on July 1, 2003, an increase of 6.5 percent).  There was a substantial voter registration activity by the political parties, their allies and other groups.  For example, Mi Familia Vota!, launched in January 2004, aimed to register 50,000 new Hispanic voters; on Sept. 29 National Director Jorge Mursuli announced the group had registered 66,000 new Hispanic voters.  The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition worked to restore voting rights for people with past felonies who have completed their sentences.  America Coming Together made a vigorous effort in the state.  Statewide registration increased by 1,548,573 from Nov. 2000 to Nov. 2004, an increase of 17.69%.  By the October 4 registration deadline Democrats' registration advantage stood at 3.58 percentage points [Dem. 4,261,249 (41.37%) to Rep. 3,892,492 (37.79%) and No Pty Aff. 1,886,013 (18.31%)]; this was somewhat smaller than the 4.36 percentage points they had in 2000 [Dem. 3,803,081 (43.45%) to Rep. 3,430,238 (39.19%) and No Pty Aff. 1,353,431 (15.46%)].

Despite the experience of 2000, concerns about voter disenfranchisement remained.  On March 8, 2004 Congressman Robert Wexler (D), Palm Beach County Commissioners Burt Aaronson and Addie Greene, and President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Tony Fransetta filed suit to force the Secretary of State to set procedures for manual recount in the 15 counties with touch screen voting machines, as required by law.  In July 2004 Secretary of State Glenda Hood was forced to scrap a felon purge list due to flaws.  On Oct. 12, 2004 the Advancement Project, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, People For the American Way Foundation, and SEIU sued the state of Florida and several county elections supervisors over processing of registration forms.

The Bush campaign made an early start in Florida, putting in place Brett Doster as executive director in October 2003; Doster had served as Florida political director on Bush's 2000 campaign.  By March 2004 the campaign had 212 county leaders were in place.  In the succeeding months the campaign built up an extensive grassroots structure so that by Election Day it reported it had recruited 102,438 volunteers.1  The Kerry campaign meanwhile maintained a finance operation in Florida, but didn't start putting field staff in until until May 20042 and did not name their state director, Tom Shea, until June 2004.  Ultimately the Democratic campaign in Florida comprised several hundred staffers.

Four hurricanes in six weeks caused billions in damages and raised havoc with campaigning.  Campaigns had to shut operations not only on the days the storms landed, but also several days before and after.  Charley was first to hit, making landfall in the Fort Myers area Aug. 13, 2004; later Frances, Ivan and Jeanne battered the state.  The hurricanes had spent their fury before the first presidential debate, held September 30, 2004 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.  Karin Johanson, who directed America Coming Together in Florida, states that one "cannot overestimate the effect of those hurricanes."3  Johanson says the storms "delayed us tremendously" and "blew August for us," but perhaps more important was their effect on "swing voter psyche."  If the election was about security, for Floridians in affected areas security meant "the war/hurricanes."  They created a churning mess in which Gov. Jeb Bush, holding regular 9:00 a.m. press conferences, appeared to be in control.  The hurricane clouds likewise had a silver lining for President Bush, presenting him with multiple opportunities to be seen as the sympathetic and caring leader when touring damaged areas during his visits of Aug. 15, Sept. 8, Sept. 19 and Sept. 29-30.

While President Bush had the advantage of having brother Jeb as governor, the Democratic ticket had its own Florida ties, but the connection wasn't at the same level.  Elizabeth Edwards was born in Jacksonville, her parents live in Sarasota, her sister lives in Bradenton, and she has a number of other relatives around the state.

Overall Bush covered more ground in his Florida visits than Senator Kerry, in particular doing bus trips on the Florida panhandle (Aug. 10), the Southeast Coast (Oct. 16) and in West Central Florida (Oct. 19).  Kerry, Senator Edwards, and their wives meanwhile made repeated visits to key urban areas, specifically Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Orange Counties.

Kerry allies were active in the state, including ACT, organized labor, and the Environmental Victory Project.  By Election Day, ACT-FL had eight offices spread out across Florida, 65 full time staff, and 10,000 canvassers on the ground and had contacted its 1.6 million targeted voters an average of seven times through personal visits and mail.  In two offices where the focus was voter registration, Orlando and Jacksonville, ACT-FL registered 50,948 new voters in a span of 8 months.  Specialized efforts included a bilingual canvass targeting Hispanic neighborhoods in Orlando; Caribbean Power Vote, consisting of Haitian-American Creole-speaking canvassers in Little Haiti (Miami-Dade); and a senior coffee program, targeting seniors in their condo communities in Palm Beach.  In mid-October ACT-FL began its Early Vote GOTV program, hitting 800,000 targeted households in 11 counties.  An absentee ballot program focused on the newly registered and those who registered in 2002 but did not vote.  On Election Day, ACT-FL claimed more than 10,000 canvassers on the street, fanning out from the eight offices, and launching from 32 staging sites.  LCV's Environmental Victory Project, based in Orlando, knocked on over 280,000 doors, providing persuasion at the door and identifying pro-Kerry voters.  On a sour note, AFL-CIO demonstrators protesting on overtime pay swarmed into the Bush office in Orlando on Oct. 5, defacing a poster, pouring letters on a desk, and refusing to leave.  There were a couple of minor injuries and an arrest.  A similar action took place at the Bush office in Miami.

The parties encouraged early and absentee voting (Republican calls).  More than one third of voters (36.4%) cast their ballots in the two-week early voting period that began October 18 or voted absentee (1,352,447 voters or 17.7% cast absentee ballots and 1,428,362 voters or 18.7% cast ballots at early voting sites).

In the days leading up to the election get-out-the-vote programs were implemented.  The Republicans' grassroots effort was impressive.  Over the year they reported recruiting 102,438 volunteers.  Bush supporters including home schoolers, church-going folks, and volunteers from non-competitive states including Alabama, Georgia and the District of Columbia mobilized for the Republicans' Victory 2004 72-Hour program, which started October 28 and ran through Election Day.  After months of planning the infrastructure was in place.  Working from 91 phone bank locations, using 1,598 phones (land and cell), supporters worked 18,828 4-hour shifts, made 1,524,318 calls, connecting with 907,668 people over the six days.  Using Voter Vault data on less reliable Republicans and new registrants, ten mapmakers had worked for a couple of weeks to prepare walking packets which were then distributed by county.  Supporters did 23,144 four-hour walking shifts and tallied 1,104,235 doors knocked.  The effort significantly exceeded the goals of 1,166,800 calls and 778,200 doors knocked.
72-Hour Program Statistics
Thursday Oct. 28
Friday Oct. 29
Saturday Oct. 30
Sunday Oct. 31
Monday Nov. 1
Election Day Nov. 2
Walking Shifts
Doors Knocked
Call Shifts
Calls Connected
Note: A walking shift is 4 hours and a call shift is 4 hours.
72-Hour Program Goals

This work paid off as Bush obtained over 3.9 million votes--more than one million more votes than in 2000--and increased his plurality to 380,978 votes.  According to the Democrats' Victory 2004 Florida Coordinated Campaign plan dated Sept. 3, 20044, "The Florida statewide vote goal, based on a 52% Democratic win number, is 3,314,240."  In fact Democrats exceeded that goal as Kerry obtained 3,590,201 votes, but due to the heavy turnout Bush still came out in front.  A significant factor in Bush's victory was his strong showing in rural areas.5

1. An inside, if warped, description of the Bush campaign in Orlando appears in Matt Taibbi's book Spanking the Donkey.  Taibbi worked undercover in Bush's Orlando office for two months starting in June.  His account originally appeared in the Sept. 2004 issue of Rolling Stone.

2.  Adam C. Smith.  "Kerry campaign cranking up in Florida."  St. Petersburg Times, May 5, 2004.

3. Karin Johanson interviewed by phone on Sept. 8, 2005.

4. In an interesting footnote, Republicans obtained Democrats' Victory 2004 Florida Coordinated Campaign plan (dated Sept. 3, 2004) > about two weeks before Election Day; on Oct. 19, 2004 the RNC posted the entire document on its website, charging it showed "illegal coordination between the Kerry Campaign, the Florida Democrat Party and Democrat 527 shadow groups."  Democrats said the plan was only a draft, but it is fairly remarkable to come across such document during the course of a campaign.

5. See: Abby Goodnough and Don Van Natta.  "Bush Secured Victory in Florida by Veering From Beaten Path."  New York Times, Nov. 7, 2004. and Adam C. Smith  "Rural vote gave state to Bush."  St. Petersburg Times.  Nov. 14, 2004.
Bush-Cheney '04 Kerry-Edwards 2004
Organization details...  details...
BC'04 State Chair: Gov. Jeb Bush
Exec. Director: Brett Doster
Comm. Director: Albert Martinez
Office: 420 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee

Republican Party of Florida
State Chair: Carole Jean Jordan
Exec. Director-Political/Victory Director: Stephen Shiver
Office: 420 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee

KE State Director: Tom Shea
Comm. Director: Matt Miller
Senior Florida Advisor: Nick Baldick
Office: 115 E. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

Coordinated Campaign Director: Ken Robinson
Office: 115 E. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

Florida Democratic Party
State Chair: Scott Maddox
Exec. Director: Paige Carter-Smith
Office: 214 S. Bronough St., Tallahassee

Travel  compare...
Final Month (Oct. 2-Nov. 2, 2004)
George W. Bush - 4 visits (7 days)
Dick Cheney (and Lynne Cheney) - 3 visits (6 days)
Laura Bush (solo) - 1 visit (1 day)
John Kerry - 6 visits (10 days)
John Edwards - 6 visits (11 days)
Teresa Heinz Kerry (solo) - 2 visits (4 days)
Elizabeth Edwards (solo) - 2 visits (4 days)
Eight Months (March 2-Nov. 2, 2004)
George W. Bush - 14 visits (18 days)
Dick Cheney (and Lynne Cheney) - 6 visits (9 days)
Laura Bush (solo) - 4 visits (4 days)
John Kerry - 15 visits (29 days)
John Edwards - 9 visits (15 days)
Teresa Heinz Kerry (solo) - 5 visits (9 days)
Elizabeth Edwards (solo) - 3 visits (7 days)
Newspaper Endorsements
Florida Times-Union [Jacksonville]
Naples Daily News
Ocala Star-Banner  (10/24/04)
The Lakeland Ledger  (10/22/04) >
Fort Pierce Tribune  (date?) 
Gainesville Sun  (10/24/04)
*Orlando Sentinel  (10/24/04)
Sarasota Herald-Tribune  (10/24/04)
Citrus County Chronicle [Crystal River]  (10/24/04) >
Miami Herald  (10/17/04)
St. Petersburg Times  (10/17/04)
South Florida Sun-Sentinel [Ft. Lauderdale]  (10/17/04)
Palm Beach Post  (10/17/04)
Daytona Beach News-Journal  (10/17/04)
*Bradenton Herald  (10/17/04)
Florida Today [Melbourne]  (10/17/04)
Non-Endorsement: Tampa Tribune (10/17/04) "Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush For Re-Election"

I-4 Corridor: 2000 and 2004
Looking at the six counties immediately along the critical I-4 Corridor across central Florida, the Republican ticket prevailed in 2000 by a total of about 20,000 votes -- 589,818 to 569,636.  Voter registration increased in the six counties from 1,695,485 in Nov. 2000 to 2,129,364 in Nov. 2004, an increase of 25.6% (433,879 more registered).  In the six counties, 1,559,434 people voted for president in 2004 (about 20 percent of the statewide total), an increase of 373,462 as compared to 2000.  Kerry's vote totals were higher than Gore's in each of the six counties (from 14.4% to 37.9% higher), but Bush's totals increased even more (35.9% to 64.5%).  All told in the six counties Bush amassed 235,069 more votes than in 2000 (39.85% increase), while Kerry improved upon Gore's showing by 154,982 votes (27.21%); as a result Bush's margin increased from a bit more than 20,000 in 2000 to a bit more than 100,000 (824,887 to 724,618) in 2004.
Counties (W to E) Voter Registration
Nov. 7, 2000
Voter Registration
Nov. 2, 2004
% Change
(statewide 17.69%)
Hillsborough 499,427 621,201 +24.38%
Polk 247,807 295,742 +19.34%
Orange 404,779 531,774 +31.37%
Osceola 92,196 129,487 +40.45%
Seminole 190,704 241,230 +26.49%
Volusia 260,572 309,930 +18.94%

Vote Totals
Bush Gore Others Total
9,978 (2.77) 360,295
3,112 (1.85) 168,607
5,388 (1.92) 280,125
1,235 (2.22)  55,658
2,783 (2.02) 137,634
3,992 (2.17) 183,653
Bush Kerry Others Total
Change '00 to '04
Bush GtoK Others Total
(1,850) -59.45% 42,223
(3,237) -60.08% 107,919
(1,731) -62.20% 48,561
(2,496) -62.53% 45,286


Post Election Flurry
Shortly after the election a fairly astounding working paper from the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center claimed that, "Irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 excess votes or more to President George W. Bush in Florida."  Professors B.D. McCullough at Drexel University and Florenz Plassmann at SUNY Binghamton considered the paper and concluded that "the study is entirely without merit and its 'results' are meaningless."

However, Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, a Seattle-based 501(c)(3) which describes itself as the "official consumer protection group for elections," raised other allegations.  Seeking to conduct a "Help America Audit," BBV had filed public records requests with election supervisors in Florida and other states on November 2.  On November 15 and 16 Harris and her investigators sought to examine polling place tapes in Volusia County.  They claimed to find tapes and other election documents in the trash and said that election officials stonewalled them.  On November 23, Volusia County resident Susan Pynchon, with the help of Volusia County attorney Daniel R. Vaughen, P.A., filed a lawsuit charging that results tapes were found in the trash and that there were "significant and troubling" memory card failures.  Also, on November 30 BBV brought suit against Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore in Palm Beach County Circuit Court for unlawfully withholding records.  While Harris does have her critics and is seen by some as conspiracy minded, the allegations did point out the need for greater transparency.

Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project.  "On the Discrepancy between Party Registration and Presidential Vote in Florida."  Nov. 10, 2004.  [PDF]

Michael Hout, Laura Mangels, Jennifer Carlson, and Rachel Best.  "Working Paper: The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections."  UC Berkeley Survey Research Center.  Nov. 2004.

B. D. McCullough [Drexel University] and Florenz Plassmann [SUNY Binghamton].  "A Partial Critique of Hout, Mangels, Carlson and Best’s 'The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections'”  Dec. 2, 2004.

Jasjeet S. Sekhon [Harvard University]. "Working Paper: The 2004 Florida Optical Voting Machine Controversy: A Causal Analysis Using Matching."  Nov. 14, 2004.

Jonathan Wand [Stanford University]. "Working Paper: Evaluating the Impact of Voting Technology on the Tabulation of Voter Preferences: The 2004 Presidential Election in Florida."  Nov. 15, 2004 (initial version Nov. 11, 2004).

Calling to mind the 2000 post-election legal battles, it took a decision from the Supreme Court of Florida to put Nader on the Florida ballot.  Florida is one of the states where Nader sought to use his Reform Party nomination to get on the ballot.  On Aug. 31, 2004 the Reform Party State Executive Committee applied to the Secretary of State Glenda Hood to place Nader and Camejo on the November 2 ballot as its nominees.  After Nader and Camejo were certified, two groups, one including the Florida Democratic Party, and another consisting of four Florida voters backed by "The Ballot Project," filed suit in the Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee seeking an injunction to keep Nader off the ballot.  They maintained that Nader was actually an independent candidate rather than the nominee of a minor party.  On Sept. 8, after a seven-hour hearing, Circuit Judge Kevin Davey issued a preliminary injunction preventing Secretary of State Glenda Hood from placing Nader on the ballot.  After considerable legal maneouvering (Hood) the matter ended up before the state Supreme Court.  On Sept. 17 in a 6-1 decision in the Reform Party of Florida, et al. vs. Harriet Jane Black, et al. the Court found that Nader and Camejo should appear on the ballot, noting that "any doubt as to the meaning of statutory terms should be resolved broadly in favor of ballot access."

 Copyright © 2004, 2005  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.

The 2004 Campaign on the Web--Florida  01/02/05
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