Awake the State starts a one-year goal of awaking voters

11/02/11 Janelle Irwin
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The 2012 elections are only twelve months away and a progressive-leaning group is beginning the process of getting voters informed and to the polls. About 100 advocates rallied last night in Tampa in one of 15 Awake the State demonstrations across Florida.

Fewer than 70,000 votes could have changed the course of last year's race for Florida governor. Supporters of Awake the State are hoping to avoid any more near misses by driving voter turnout. Vera Chapman volunteered to sign people up to call at least ten friends and tell them to vote.

And the executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teacher’s Association, Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins supports the organization's efforts to raise awareness. But she isn’t just concerned with national politics. Baxter-Jenkins doesn’t like the way the state is being run and is asking voters to help make a change.

In fact, much of the talk surrounded the Governor that many Floridians love to hate. Rick Scott's recommendations for education cuts have made him an enemy of fifth grader Destiny Cattery.

Cattery recorded a similar statement for Awake the State’s website. Danielle Leppo is a much older student. She got involved with the group Students for a Democratic Society at USF Tampa after she realized lawmakers in Tallahassee were implementing a series of harsh tuition hikes.

Governor Scott’s main opponent in the last election, Alex Sink recalled the excitement she felt one year ago when she was hopeful she would defeat the entrepreneur-turned-politician. She said she may be down, but not out and that’s why she’s created a non-profit geared toward making sure the voters get what they need and want.

Another speaker, Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith said advocates could stand to learn a lot from the plight of LGBT persons. Smith said it was likely someone in the crowd had opposed legally recognizing same-sex marriage, but she hopes with accurate information minds will change.

Organizers from Awake the State say they will continue to host events throughout the next year in preparation for an important election season. One organizer, Timothy Heberlein also called attention to the neighboring Occupy movement in Curtis Hixon Park. He said the two groups have a lot and common and hopes supporters of each will continue to work well with each other.

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