July 2020 Policy Snapshot: Get Ready to Vote!

6 Jul 2020 12:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

Voting is one of the most fundamental ways for citizens to enact change in their communities. Voting gives citizens the opportunity to select their public servants and wield long-lasting change in their communities through the constitutional amendments and referendums that often appear on ballots.  

In March, Florida saw a 30% voter turnout for the Presidential Preference Primary election, much lower than the 46% seen four years before in 2016. Yet, during March’s primary the use of vote by mail surged to about 45% of the overall vote.

With concerns over the coronavirus, many are turning to mail-in voting for the upcoming Primary and General Elections. In recent weeks, local elections supervisors across the state have been promoting this option as a safe alternative to in-person voting.

Unlike some other states, Florida has a long history of using the mail for voting. Roughly 30 percent of the people who voted in the 2016 and 2018 general elections voted by mail in Florida.

In fact, Florida’s amended law now provides more time for voters to cure rejected mail ballots. Elections officials are now required to try to reach the voter by phone, email, text message and mail to let them know if their ballot was rejected so they can try to cure the issue. The mail ballot envelope was modified to include spaces for voters to put their contact information.

For the upcoming August 18th Primary Election and November 3rd General Elections, we have put together some helpful information on voter registration and how the process works.

When are the upcoming elections? What is the difference between the Primary and General Election? 

The primary election determines what candidate will represent that party in the general election. Winning a primary election does not equate to being elected to office. The general election is open to all registered voters, regardless of political affiliation, and determines who wins each of their respective races and who is elected to office.  

Florida is a closed-primary state, meaning that only registered members of a major political party (Democratic Party or Republican Party) can participate in its primary elections. 

The deadline to change party affiliation in the State of Florida is 29 days before an election. For the 2020 election cycle, the last day to change party affiliation before the primary election is July 20th, 2020. The last day to change party affiliation before the general election is October 5th, 2020. 

Voting Registration Deadlines 

Primary Election: July 20th, 2020 

General Election: October 5th, 2020 

Voting Dates 

Primary Election: August 18th, 2020 

General Election: November 3rd, 2020 

Floridians can check their voter registration status here. 

What will be on the ballot in the 2020 Election? 

  • All seats in the US House of Representatives and State House of Representatives are up for election. 
  • State Senators representing ODD numbered districts are up for election. 
  • Districts 1-5 Court of Appeals (Judges) 
  • Several Circuit Court Judges 
  • Special District Elections:  

- Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority 

- Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District 

- Loxahatchee River Environmental Control District 

- Mediterranean Community Development District 

- Sebastian Inlet Tax District 

- Tolomato Community Development District 

The Florida Department of State has a database with the candidates for the 2020 election, which can be found here. 

How do I register to vote?

You can apply to register to vote in any of the following ways:  

  • Online at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov.
  • In-person at a Florida driver's license office or tax collector's office that issues driver's licenses or Florida identification cards, or online through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ online renewal system: GoRenew.com. 
  • At a voter registration agency: NVRA webpage. 
  • By mail you can send in the statewide voter registration application form which can be found at any county Supervisor of Elections office, local library and accessed here: English PDF / Español PDF (version 10/2013 pre-CS/SB 7066). 

How do I vote by mail?

Vote-by-mail refers to voting a ballot received by mail or picked up by or for a voter instead of going to the polls to vote during early voting period or Election Day. In Florida, the term “absentee ballot” was replaced by “vote-by-mail ballot” in state statutes in 2016 because it more accurately reflects the fact that Florida does not require voters to have an excuse (such as being absent) to vote by mail.

Except on Election Day, no excuse is needed to vote a vote-by-mail ballot. Unless otherwise specified, a request to receive a vote-by-mail ballot covers all elections through the end of the calendar year for the second ensuing regularly scheduled general election. A vote-by-mail ballot that is returned undeliverable cancels a request for future elections and must be renewed. 

Instructions are included with the vote-by-mail ballot. The voted ballot must be returned and received by the Supervisor of Elections no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. Other return options are available for Military and Overseas Voters.

If you register to vote by mail and later decide you would to vote at the polls you won’t be turned away at the polls. If you received your vote-by-mail ballot, you should return it, whether voted or not, to the poll workers on Election Day. Your vote-by-mail ballot will be voided and you will be allowed to vote a regular ballot at the polls. Even if you come to the polls without your vote-by-mail ballot, you will still be able to vote a regular ballot if the supervisor of elections' office is able to confirm that it has not received your vote-by-mail ballot. 

How can I find out about my vote-by-mail ballot request ballot?

Your vote-by-mail ballot request and ballot can be tracked online. Go to your county Supervisor of Elections' website or through the Division of Elections Voter Information Lookup to your county portal that will link you to your vote-by-mail ballot information.

What about early voting? 

By law, early voting must be held at least for 8 days. The mandatory early voting periods for 2020 are: 

Primary Election: August 8 – 15 

General Election: October 24 – 31 

Each county Supervisor of Elections may offer more days of early voting from one or more of the following days: 

Primary Election: August 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 16 

General Election: October 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and November 1 

Voters can find their county’s Supervisor of Elections here. 

What do I need bring on Election Day to vote at the polls? 

When voting in person, Florida requires some form of voting identification present at the time of voting. The following are acceptable forms of ID: 

  • Florida driver’s license 
  • Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles 
  • United States passport 
  • Debit or credit card 
  •  Military identification 
  • Student identification 
  • Retirement center identification 
  • Neighborhood association identification 
  • Public assistance identification 
  • Veteran health identification card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs 
  • License to carry a concealed weapon or firearm issued pursuant to s. 790.06 
  • Employee identification card issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the federal government, the state, a county, or a municipality 

A voter who presents an ID without a signature must show a second form of identification that includes the voter’s signature. 

What if I am a convicted felon and I want to restore my voting rights?

According to Amendment 4, it has been deemed unconstitutional to require any fines or fees for felons to restore their rights to vote. Per the Florida Divisions of Elections, this is how felons restore their rights: 

1. If convicted of murder or felony sexual offense, voting rights in Florida can only be restored through clemency pursuant to section 8, Art. V of the Florida Constitution. To apply for clemency, search for grant of clemency and certificates, and/or find out more information about clemency, visit the website for the Florida Commission on Offender Review. 

2. If convicted of any other felony offense, voting rights are restored upon completion of all terms of a sentence including parole or probation pursuant to section 4., Art. VI of the Florida Constitution. Such convicted felon may alternatively apply for clemency to restore voting rights. 

3. To determine if you have completed all the terms of your sentence including parole or probation as to one or more felony conviction(s), contact one or more of the following offices as may be applicable: Florida Department of Corrections, and /or the clerk of the court in the jurisdiction(s) in which you were convicted whether that be a circuit court in Florida, a court in another state, or a federal court. 

For more information on voting, head to the Florida Division of Elections website or contact your county’s Supervisor of Elections.

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