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Florida man yaps about Florida | Con-Current Events

I was born and raised in Florida, and I grew up thinking about leaving. I thought about visiting different states or going overseas during vacations, building a house in the suburbs of New England or buying an apartment in Tokyo.

I never really appreciated being a Floridian.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

But now that I’m living in Boston, there’s nothing I love doing more than hyping Florida up. I think Florida has the best beaches, amusement parks and weather.

However, unlike the atmospheric climate, Florida’s political climate these past few years has been nothing short of miserable. 

Because of a Republican trifecta with the governor, state House of Representatives and state Senate, Florida’s been guilty of brutal gerrymandering, erasure of Florida’s LGBTQ+ youth and abuse of political systems such as in the case of “Desantis v. Disney.” It doesn’t help that former President Donald Trump’s residence Mar-a-Lago brings extra political scrutiny to the state.

Florida used to be known as a swing state, but this has recently changed. Florida’s increase in retirees and conservative Latino immigrants, Democratic ignorance of Florida and Trump’s presence have all contributed to Florida’s strong shift to the right. 

So when President Joe Biden’s campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez wrote, “Florida is not an easy state to win, but it is a winnable one for President Biden,” on April 1, politically-jaded Floridians like myself could only react with shock. 

The reasoning for this new development came after some unprecedented rulings made by the Florida Supreme Court. The Court recently found a 15-week abortion ban to be constitutional and consequently approved a six-week abortion ban, which is set to go into effect in May.

But this terrible political news came with a few extra eggs in its basket. Notably, on the same day, the Court announced that two-state constitutional amendments would be approved for the state’s November ballot.

Florida’s 2024 Amendment 3 will allow Floridians to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. Amendment 4 will allow voters to vote on the right to an abortion in the state, thus nullifying the six-week ban.

This means that in November, Florida voters like myself will be voting on a ballot with Trump and Biden’s names on it, alongside the issues of abortion access and marijuana legality.

The punch line of this story? Naturally, it’s to ask how any of this may have to do with us.

Well, there’s no other way to describe this other than how important it is. The third-most-populated state in the country will be directly voting for abortion rights and marijuana legalization — and that’s just the least of the good news.

Abortion access being on the ballot has been historically proven to increase Democratic voter turnout, according to KFF data. Cannabis legalization has not been researched to the same extent, but I’d like to think a similar case would be true, given the overwhelming majority of Americans who say it should be legalized.

Voter turnout increasing in any form is precisely what the United States, and especially Florida, needs. Biden seems to agree, as his team announced they would finally be more competitive in the state — directly addressing Democrats’ recent ignorance of my home state.

Now, I’m highly doubtful all of this will be enough to turn the state blue in the 2024 presidential election. While I’m cautiously optimistic about both amendments passing, Biden taking the state for himself seems like a long shot. That being said, the capital-I, Impossible has now become a lowercase-i. 

And what Florida does with these amendments directly affects the rest of the nation as well. Before the recent six-week ruling, Florida was the best place for abortion-seeking patients stuck in the deep-south Bible Belt. Florida’s decision on a woman’s right to bodily autonomy will have direct consequences for millions of families after November.

Additionally, voters are finally fed up with the government’s infatuation with marijuana incarceration. Due to a racial disparity in arrests, re-education on the effects of the drug and general shifts towards appreciation for recreational use, there have been more calls for marijuana’s legalization and the end of its criminalization.

All of this to say, this year’s election race will definitely be an interesting one to follow. And we can directly influence its outcome by voting.

A woman’s right to choose, America’s marijuana incarceration rate and the presidential election are all within our own grimy Floridian reach. Let’s not waste this opportunity.

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