Although the midterm elections aren’t entirely over in Florida, the effects can already be measured at Miami Dade College.
The Nov. 6 elections seemingly ended with Republican wins in statewide races, with former Congressman Ron DeSantis, Governor Rick Scott and State Representative Matt Caldwell leading in their races for governor, United States Senate and Agriculture Commissioner respectively. However, with the races too close to call, the Secretary of State has called for a recount in all three.
Florida law mandates a machine recount for any race with a margin of 0.5 percent or less.
At the time The Reporter was sent to print, DeSantis held a 0.41 percentage point lead, or about 33,683 votes, over his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum. Scott currently held a .15 percentage point lead, or about 12,603 votes, over the Democratic incumbent senator, Bill Nelson. Meanwhile, the Agriculture Commissioner race has flipped, with Democrat Nikki Fried holding a 0.06 percentage point lead against Caldwell.
Miami Dade College’s early voting sites could have contributed to that margin. In early October, Miami-Dade County voted to make North and Kendall Campuses early voting locations. It’s the first time the College has hosted early voting. Both locations accounted for 11,324 total votes, about 3.7 percent of the total early voting count in Miami-Dade County.
“If the election comes within the margin of 11,000 votes, then the students of Miami Dade College played the deciding vote in the governor, Senate, and agricultural secretary races,” said North Campus professor Rick Tapia, who ran for Florida House seat in District 103 but lost in the Democratic primary race in August.
The College ranked first among all state college and universities in the number of early votes cast, with the University of Florida second. The turnout at the College was due in large part to the efforts of MDC’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy, which worked to increase voter participation among students.
“We are so proud of our many students who fought so valiantly to bring early voting to MDC,” said Joshua Young, director of iCED. “Voting is habit-forming, [as] many MDC students voted for the first time and most will now be lifelong voters which is a fundamental expectation of living in a democracy.”
An item on the midterm ballot that had an MDC connection was Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to more than 1.4 million felons who have completed their sentences. The amendment passed with 64 percent of voters voting “YES.” An amendment needs 60 percent of a “YES” vote to pass.
The amendment was spearheaded by Desmond Meade, an MDC alumnus who currently serves as the director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. To promote the initiative, the group hosted events at the College’s North Campus to help engage students with the effort.
“Amendment 4 is something we supported. We are proud of Desmond,” said Juan Mendieta, director of communications for MDC. “We hope to organize and host information sessions in the future to help this segment of the community learn more about voter registration, community engagement and educational opportunities here at MDC.”
Also included in the College’s efforts was the passage of Amendment 7, which incorporates the Florida College System in the State Constitution. This cements the constitutionality of a local board of trustees for community colleges, which had come under threat in February by the Florida Senate, which was considering a bill to create a state board to oversee all local colleges and eliminate the current system. That bill, SB 540, died on the legislative calendar in March.