The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports today that the Florida Family Policy Council, a Florida-based anti-gay, anti-abortion group, has begun ramping up its effort to get Christians to the polls for the upcoming presidential election, hoping a large Christian voter turnout could help flip Florida away from President Obama.
[Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger] didn’t provide specific numbers of unregistered Christians in his speech or in a subsequent email interview. But the political arm of the national Family Research Council, a socially conservative political organization affiliated with his group, reported that when Obama won Florida by 236,450 votes in 2008, the state was home to 668,890 conservative Christians who didn’t cast ballots because they weren’t registered.
“With a fraction of that, we can win Florida,” Stemberger told his audience in Fort Lauderdale. “These are people who would vote the right way if they were registered.”
Stemberger, a former political director of the Florida Republican Party, and his supporters are clear: the right way means preventing Obama, a Democrat, from securing a second term.
Stemberger has been touting his campaign to increase Christian turnout for months now. As I reported last November, Stemberger started “Project Active Citizen” to get as many religious voters as possible to the polls. In an email to supporters asking for donations to the project, Stemberger described it as “an effort … to help encourage thousands of pro-life and pro-family Floridians to register to vote.”
Stemberger has also already begun to distribute voter guides specifically geared towards pastors, describing how they can legally influence voters.
Project Active Citizen is just one of a handful campaigns or events that have come on the heels of Stemberger’s involvement in the Florida Renewal Project’s Pastors’ Policy Briefing. The “briefing” was held in order to involve churches and religious leaders in elections. Media outlets were barred from the event and a reporter was even escorted away from a meeting between presidential candidates Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich and pastors. Since the briefing, Stemberger helped lead a religious right get-out-the-vote event that took place in about 100 churches all over the country — including 34 in Florida.
In a brief to pastors in Florida, he told them they “have a virtual ‘army’ of attorneys at [their] disposal” and gave them a voter registration checklist (.pdf).
According to the Sentinel:
The effort is being backed with field directors and offices in six locations, including Broward, Palm Beach, Orange and Hillsborough counties. A typical office will have 30 computerized workstations to connect volunteer callers with their targets telemarketing-style, so fast they don’t even have to dial the phones themselves. Christopher Milu, the grassroots field director in Palm Beach County, said he expects to set up a location soon in West Palm Beach near Interstate 95. Jack Gillies, the Broward field director, is scouting for locations in Fort Lauderdale and southwest Broward.
The Sentinel also reports that Stemberger told a group he was recruiting for his cause that they would be “organizing Florida to take back America.” He told “about 175 potential volunteers,” Sentinel reports, that ”this is very, very critical” and what they eventually accomplish “in the next seven months could mean the difference in who is running the free world.”
“It’s that serious,” he said.