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What issues are motivating Florida voters?

November 5, 2016 at 5:10 PM EST
In Florida, more than 40 percent of registered voters have cast their ballot in a week of early voting that ends Sunday. Mary Ellen Klas, capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and co-bureau chief for the Tampa Bay Times, joins Alison Stewart to discuss which issues matter the most to Florida voters.
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ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEEKEND ANCHOR: Joining me now from Tallahassee to discuss the battle for Florida is Mary Ellen Klas. She’s the capital bureau chief for the “Miami Herald” and co- bureau chief for the “Tampa Bay Times.”

Mary Ellen, so who’s left at this point? Who are Trump and Clinton courting while spending all this time in Florida these last three days?

MARY ELLEN KLAS, MIAMI HERALD: Well, it is pretty clear that both of them are working — Trump is working to win Florida, which he needs it. And Clinton is working to win Florida to keep it from Trump because without Florida, it’s very unlikely he has a path to the White House. It is — it looks as though the early voting numbers indicate that Democrats might have the edge because even though it’s — we’ve got about 40 percent of Democrats, early voters showing up, 40 percent Republicans, and the bulk are no party affiliated, those “no party affiliated” voters more than half of them are first-time voters and a majority of them are Hispanic. And that may swing things as an advantage for Clinton.

ALISON STEWART: What’s changed about the demographics in Florida in the past four years that would have an impact this time around?

MARY ELLEN KLAS: Well, Florida has gained a lot of population. You know, 1.4 million people have moved to Florida. And more than half of those new people however, have been Hispanics. And they have — many of them are Puerto Ricans, and unlike people from other Latin American countries, when Puerto Ricans come to Florida, they can register to vote immediately because they’re citizens.

So, we have watched as the number of Hispanics grow and the unique thing, is they are the ones that are turning out this election cycle, I think that there’s a chance that Hispanics could do for Hillary Clinton in Florida what blacks did in 2008 for Barack Obama, and that is hand her the state.

The other demographic group that emerged and continues to grow are retirees. They tend to be white, and they have moved to the center of the state in retirement communities. And they are the ones that I think Trump is counting on to be his reliable voters

ALISON STEWART: There are a few big ballot initiatives in Florida. There’s one for legalizing medical marijuana. There’s one dealing with solar power, a couple of tax exemptions. Do any of those initiatives, are any them driving people to the polls? And if so, who would they drive to the polls?

MARY ELLEN KLAS: Well, I do think the medical marijuana initiative is one that is driving people. That has overwhelming support, according to the public opinion polls.

The other amendment is being pursued by the utility companies, and it’s really designed — it was kind of designed as a defense mechanism against another amendment that never made it to the ballot. Now that it’s on the ballot and they did use it to put language in that will limit roof top solar expansion, or could potentially limit it, there are a lot of solar advocates that are motivated to vote because they want to vote against that amendment.

It’s hard to tell who that will advantage, though. I think when you talk about marijuana — medical marijuana, there are people on both sides — Clinton supporters and Trump supporters — who feel strongly on that — about that issue. And I think it’s — when it comes to the solar amendment, that seems to be a Democrat issue that many Democrats have aligned with, and Democrat supporters. But it also has a tremendous support in Florida among Tea Party conservatives, and sort of people who don’t want the utilities to be telling them what they can put on their roofs.

ALISON STEWART: Mary Ellen Klas, thanks for joining us from Tallahassee.

MARY ELLEN KLAS: You’re welcome.

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