This year’s election seems more important than ever and to make the most out of your vote, here are some important things to know about the ballot, what’s on it, and general voting information and policies
“If residents of any state should to be voting, it ought to be Florida because we have a history of close elections so every vote matters.”
“If residents of any state should to be voting, it ought to be Florida because we have a history of close elections so every vote matters,” says Stephen Masyada, interim executive director for the Lou Frey Institute. “Voting is our biggest opportunity to make a change and this is a significant election no matter which candidate you support. There really is no reason to not make your voice heard, vote, and play a role in selecting the next president and influencing decisions that can have some pretty significant impacts on the state of Florida.
Ways to Vote and Avoid Ballot Mistakes
- Make sure you’re registered to vote
If you’re unsure about your voter registration status, visit CanIVote.org. If you aren’t registered to vote, the deadline to do so for the 2020 election has passed, but you should register ASAP to make sure you can participate in future elections.
- Consider early voting and bring your ID
From Oct. 19 – Nov. 1 early voting is taking place at select sites throughout Florida. There are 20 early voting sites in Orange County, including one in the Live Oak Center on UCF’s main campus, and eight in Seminole County. Lines on Election Day may be long, so early voting is a great way to avoid them and make sure you actually get to cast your ballot. Whether you’re voting early or on Election Day you must bring a valid photo ID with a signature with you.
- Request and send mail-in ballots on time or trade it in at an early voting site
The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is 10 days before Election Day, which is Nov. 3. However, if you want to be sure your ballot is counted, Masyada suggests you mailing it out two weeks before Election Day. You can also drop off mail-in ballots at early voting sites during the early voting period, just be sure to place your ballot in the return envelope with a signature and date, just as you would do if you were mailing it. If you change your mind, you can also bring your mail-in ballot to an early voting site to exchange it and vote in person instead.
- Make sure your signature matches your government ID
No matter which method you choose to vote — but especially so for mail-in ballots — it is crucial to make sure your signature matches the one on your government ID, typically your driver’s license. This is one of the most common mistakes that can prevent your vote from being counted and if you’re voting by mail you likely won’t know your vote hasn’t been counted until it’s too late, Masyada says.
- Use a black pen, completely fill in bubbles and don’t make stray marks
If you’re voting in person you’ll likely be given an appropriate writing utensil, but if you’re voting by mail be sure to use a black pen because other ink colors or pencil will not be detected by scanners, Masyada says. While you don’t have to complete every question or category on the ballot, you must completely fill in ovals for the ones you want to fill out. And stray marks should be avoided to prevent any issues with counting your vote.
- Don’t share your ballot on social media
While you may feel inclined to share your vote on social media, don’t take a selfie with your ballot in a polling place and post it online because it’s illegal and you may face consequences. Instead, you can post pictures with your “I Voted” sticker.
- Track your mail-in ballot
If you’re mailing in your ballot, you can track the status of it through the Division of Elections’ Voter Information Lookup or through your county’s Supervisor of Elections’ website.
Understanding the Six Amendments on Florida’s Ballot This Year
There’s a lot more on the ballot than just presidential candidates, so be sure to do your research on other political and government officials, like your local congressional representatives, senator and sheriff, that are up for election. Sites like Vote411.org, which is a nonpartisan tool provided by the Women’s League of Voters, provide personalized voting information based on where you live.
There are also six amendments on Florida’s ballot this year and to help you make your best decision, here are some summaries of each one.
The state Constitution currently states “every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
Amendment 1 would change from the word “every” to “only”.
The current minimum wage in Florida is $8.56 an hour to $10 in September 2021 and then the wage would increase it by $1 per year after that until it reaches $15 an hour in 2026. In 2027, the minimum wage would revert back to increasing annually by the rate of inflation, which is already in the state constitution.
Currently in Florida, registered Republicans vote in their primary and registered Democrats vote in theirs, while registered voters with no political party affiliation can’t vote in either.
“Speaking civics wise, Amendment 3 is one people should really pay attention to because it essentially eliminates closed primaries in the state,” Masyada says. “It would open the primaries up and potentially two Republicans or two Democrats can get the nominations [in the general elections].”
Amendment 4 is another one that Masyada says is especially important from a civics perspective.
“Amendment 4 would change the constitutional amendment process in the state significantly,” Masyada says. “Right now, in order for an amendment to pass it has to reach a 60 percent approval from all voters in the state during one election. This amendment means future amendments would have to pass with 60 percent through two elections – which essentially is double the effort.”
If passed, Amendment 5 would extend the period for which people can transfer “Save Our Home” benefits from two years to three.
This amendment would allow a deceased veteran’s homestead property tax discount to transfer over to their surviving spouse. If the spouse sells the property and moves into a new home, they would be eligible for a discount that does not exceed the previous one. However, if they remarry, they would no longer be eligible.