A Democratic Official Reflects on the Electoral Process

Lincoln recently interviewed Terrie Rizzo, outgoing chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, via video. 

President-elect Joseph R. Biden, a Democrat, will be sworn in as the country’s 46th president on January 20, 2021. Biden earned 306 electoral votes to Republican incumbent Donald J. Trump’s 232. A presidential candidate must earn at least 270 electoral college votes to be declared the winner.  

Despite Biden’s victory, Trump continues to make baseless accusations about voter fraud. Most of the court cases he has filed have been dismissed. 

To better understand how the electoral process works, I recently spoke with Terrie Rizzo, outgoing chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. Rizzo got her start in politics as a volunteer for John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004. Kerry, a Democrat, lost that year to incumbent President George W. Bush, a Republican.

Rizzo served as chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party until 2017, when she was elected head of the Florida Democratic Party. She plans to retire this month.

Officials and volunteers in state political parties focus on every aspect of an election. “I work with all components of our party to prepare for getting out the vote,” Rizzo said.

This year, Florida’s Democratic officials worked with the Biden campaign to register voters and educate them on the issues. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Florida and other states made changes to their voting process, allowing people to cast ballots by mail and for several days before Election Day on November 3.

Election 2020 had the largest number of mail-in ballots ever. Turnout also hit a record high. “I think people should have these option [going forward],” Rizzo said. “People who want to vote in person can do so, but they also should have the ability to cast their ballot by mail.”

In Florida, ballots were sent out on September 24 to allow voters ample time to return them. An overwhelming majority of people voted before Election Day, Rizzo said. “They voted by mail. It was safe, healthy, and convenient for people. Or they voted early. We no longer have an Election Day. we have an election period.”


Lincoln visited a polling place in his Florida neighborhood on Election Day and wrote about young people’s reactions to Biden’s win.


During our conversation, Rizzo discussed the impact of gerrymandering on elections. Gerrymandering is a long-term practice of manipulating boundaries within states so that it gives an unfair advantage to a voting group or a political party. The word originated with Elbridge Gerry, a framer of the United States Constitution. While serving as Governor of Massachusetts, Gerry signed off on a redistricting plan that would give an unfair political advantage to his party.

Rizzo would like to see an end to gerrymandering and have electoral “districts drawn in a fair way so that candidates can compete fairly, and not in districts drawn to favor one party or the other.”

Another concern is lowering the cost of running for office. The need for candidates to raise money for television advertising and other expenses means that big donors often seek favors that benefit them once an individual is elected.

Rizzo also would like to see the U.S. Congress restore a key element of the Voting Rights Act, which addresses the discrimination that Black voters have historically faced at the polls.  

Although Biden lost in Florida, Rizzo is proud of his election victory and believes that he will help bring the country together. “Joe Biden promised that he will be a President for all the nation,” she said. “He will work hard on behalf of all Americans, for the benefit of all Americans.”  

As for the reluctance of President Trump and many Republican leaders to acknowledge Biden's win, Rizzo said: “Both parties need to work together to observe the democratic process. The voters have spoken. We all need to honor that and work together as we go forward to heal our country.”


Photos courtesy of the author