The outcome of next year’s election could be decided far from the polls and long before Election Day. Copying a page from the Republican Party’s playbook, Democrats are hoping to turn one of their opposition’s most effective election strategies into a weapon that could win Florida for President Barack Obama — an outcome that could ensure him a second term in the White House.
The effort has been quietly under way for months. Its gist: Find every registered Florida Democrat who used an absentee ballot in the 2008 presidential and 2010 governor’s elections, and get them signed up to vote again by mail next year. With more than one in five of the state’s registered Democratic voters living in Broward and Palm Beach counties, South Florida is ground zero for the effort.
“Absentee could absolutely be a game-changer for them. It’s something they have not mastered before. If they master it and use it successfully, they could turn some races,” said Shane Strum, a former Broward Republican chairman who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist.
A small slice of additional votes can make the difference between winning and losing, said Alfred DiMaio, a Democratic committeeman from Fort Lauderdale, and a retired political science professor at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. It could determine who wins Florida’s 29 electoral votes — more than one-tenth the 270 needed to win the presidency. “It doesn’t take much,” DiMaio said.