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About the I-4 Votes Project

I 4 Votes a WMFE and WUSF collaboration

What is the I-4 Votes Project?

• It’s a joint project between WMFE in Orlando and WUSF in Tampa.
• We’ll be telling the stories of voters all along the I-4 corridor, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
• Florida is a toss-up state and has seen monumental population growth that may have shifted the conventional wisdom.
• WMFE and WUSF surveyed voters to find out what’s important to them.
• We’ll focus on voters in the I-4 corridor, not the horse race.
• Both WMFE and WUSF will hold live town halls for voters to talk about what matters most in all parts of the I-4 corridor.

I-4 Votes tells stories that reflect the voices of voters who live along the I-4 corridor that stretches from Daytona Beach to St. Petersburg. I-4 Votes is part of the “America Amplified: Election 2020” reporting network funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and directed by KCUR in Kansas City.

Florida has been a Republican-leaning state and has been won by the Republican presidential nominee six times since 1980. But now Florida is considered a toss-up state because it is one of the fastest-growing states in the country. Central Florida and the Tampa Bay region, the I-4 corridor, is the fastest-growing region in the state.

The Orlando Economic Partnership projects 1,500 people moving into Central Florida every week for the next 11 years. The Tampa Bay region grew by 51,000 residents in 2018, placing it in the top 10 of the U.S. Census’s growing metropolitan areas.

Several factors drive this monumental growth. Emigration from Puerto Rico due to the financial crisis and natural disasters has grown this community to be second only to New York City’s. Newly imposed limits on state and local taxes outside of Florida have become an incentive for New York, New Jersey and Illinois residents to change their residence to The Sunshine State. Intrastate migration to the I-4 corridor is growing as the cost of living in other regions becomes unmanageable. And while the courts have not yet signed off on it, Floridians in 2018 overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment that would allow more than 1 million felons in the state to vote once they have fulfilled their debt to society.

How are we doing this?

Our approach is voter centric. The emphasis of our stories and community engagement activities will focus on what the candidates need to know about what voters value.

We’ll do this by telling stories, especially from underserved and minority communities in the region – from long-time voters to people who have never cast a ballot. We’ll listen and share how the current economic, social and political environment directly affects individuals and families in the region. These are the stories elected officials and those seeking office need to hear.

We’ll keep an eye on the presidential horse race, but we’re not going to track it day-to-day like the cable news channels. Instead, we’re going use the information we learn from engaging with the communities in the I-4 corridor to shape our coverage.

Florida is the very definition of a toss-up state. According to the latest counts by the State’s Division of Elections, Democratic Party registrations outnumber Republican registrations 37% to 35%, but the opinions and life experiences of the more than 3.5 million unaffiliated voters in the state – 27% of all voters – will be the ones who shape the conversation right up to Election Day.

For the past several presidential elections, Florida, with its nearly equal mix of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, has been seen as one of the nation’s top swing states. And voters in the I-4 corridor and the surrounding region represent it better than anywhere else. We will spend time explaining what this idea of being a swing state means, and how the region’s growth is affecting individual attitudes.

We can’t do this kind of reporting without a deep community engagement component. We started months ago with an online issues survey and a series of seven in-person events. The more than 800 people who participated already are shaping our coverage and allow us to track opinions throughout the election season.

Moving forward, we’ll execute a series of town halls, community engagement events and check back in with voters as the campaign heads toward Election Day. Every component of the project will feature local voices. There will be opportunities for discussions where neighbors will be able to share and hear one another’s views.

Ultimately, we aim to help the people living in the I-4 corridor better understand each other and how the votes in this critical region play a role in choosing who will be president of the United States.

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