Are we there yet? After the first debate, and the news on President Trump, many Americans are wondering when the election will end. But due to the coronavirus, not only may results take longer to calculate than before, but one critical state could swing in favor of Joe BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE, and it is Florida.
Just as in the contest of George Bush and Al Gore, the 29 electoral votes for Florida could decide the fate of the White House in November. During the last few decades, the state population has grown tremendously, from nearly 16 million in 2000 to more than 21 million in 2019. Today, there are millions of new ballots to count and voters to convince. The largest group of recent residents are the waves of people who have relocated to Florida from New York and other East Coast states in the current pandemic.
March is the time when people leave Florida, as snowbirds head home at the end of winter. But the opposite occurred this year, as people fled the states in the north that had high coronavirus rates and condensed living conditions. Those who remain in Florida can vote if they file a change of address, and new residents have until tomorrow to register to vote.
There is no current Census data to determine the exact numbers of those who have moved south, but there are several clues. Some recent reports estimated 950 new Florida residents every day. There are about 200 days from the official start of the coronavirus crisis and the deadline to register to vote in the state, which translates into more than 190,000 new Florida residents. Consider that turnout for the 2016 election was at 75 percent, which results in more than 142,000 potential new voters this year.
Real estate data suggests that many new Florida residents have no plans to return back north. Contracts on condos and single family homes have risen steadily after doubling in July. Contracts above $1 million increased by 250 percent over last year only in Palm Beach County. The timing may also swing the election. One Florida realtor believes the allure of voting in a swing state in a general election may be attracting new residents.
Perhaps more important than the numbers is where the new residents are coming from. Florida is usually evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The 2016 election was decided by 113,000 votes from Florida. Most people who have gone to Florida are from blue states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The number of New York residents leaving due to the pandemic marks a 50 percent increase over recent years. The coronavirus, along with the increasing crime for New York, offers families a reason to leave for the lower taxes and relative safety in Florida.
Imagine shifting the Florida population to account for those moving from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The greatest proportion of those people are from cities. Interest for moving vans from New York to Florida has increased by 10 percent since last year. We do not know the number of new residents who will vote or how they will vote. But if the significant majority of them vote, along with other recent transplants from the blue states, the result could make the 2000 recount look like a picnic.
If the coronavirus shifts the race toward Biden, it would be a bitter irony that New York residents leaving that place devastated by liberal policies shape the future of the entire nation. If the exodus affects Congress and gives Democrats control of both chambers, along with the White House, they would have a license to introduce more states into the union, pack the Supreme Court, and move the nation away from its traditions.
With the concern on both sides about a close election being kicked back to the states to decide the result, a Florida fiasco is especially worrisome. For Florida residents, both the established ones and the new transplants, there is a chance that they will again decide the fate of our nation.
Kristin Tate is a libertarian author and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is a Robert Novak journalism fellow at the Fund for American Studies. Her newest book is “The Liberal Invasion of Red State America.”