With a vote-by-mail ballot, you’ll be able to vote on Election Day if coronavirus makes in-person voting unwise or even impossible.
Florida’s presidential preference primaries and some of its local elections took place on March 17, relatively early in the life of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida.
Still, it was a major factor in the low voter turnout, both locally and statewide.
In this post, I’ll explain why you as a Florida voter should, and how you can, request Vote-By-Mail ballots today for the August and November 2020 elections — even if you have no intention of using them.
(While I am, of course, aware of the political debate taking place nationally about whether states that don’t currently offer Vote-By-Mail should do so, I will not be discussing it here since Florida already allows it.)
Our Experience with the March Elections
- Coronavirus contributed to voter turnout plunge for Tuesday’s presidential primaries. Florida Today, 3/18/20
And in Collier County:
- Collier County sees lower voter turnout due to coronavirus. fox4now.com, 3/17/20
The polling locations for Precinct 416 (originally Moorings Park) and Precinct 222 (originally Bentley Village) were moved at the request of the host locations because of the risks of coronavirus outbreak at assisted living facilities. And on Election Day, coronavirus kept 80 Collier County poll workers from fulfilling their commitments to come in.
But it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and “vote-by-mail was the hero of the pandemic primaries”:
Elections in the weeks since in other states (especially Wisconsin) were affected even more, as Supervisors of Elections scrambled to address no-show poll workers, suddenly-unavailable polling locations, and insufficient personal protection equipment and hand sanitizer. Lines to vote were long, and social distancing was a challenge.
Florida’s August 18 primary and November 3 general elections are months away, but even if the virus peaks in Florida on April 21 as predicted:
- Fauci ‘can’t guarantee’ physical vote in November will be safe. foxnews.com, 4/13/20
Given recent experience, it’s likely that fewer community locations will be willing to serve as polling places, and fewer people will be willing to work as poll workers.
So last week, in a letter to Governor DeSantis, Florida’s Supervisors of Elections wrote:
In anticipation that these challenges will continue and likely will impact the August 2020 Primary Election and the November 2020 General Election, Florida’s Supervisors of Elections request your assistance through the issuance of an Executive Order modifying current Florida statutory procedures.
They asked him to allow them to start early voting 22 days before the August primary and the November general election, keep early voting sites open through Election Day, and consolidate polling places, among other requests.
How will the Governor respond? When asked, a Department of State spokesman would only say the agency is “reviewing these concerns and will continue working with local supervisors of elections.”
There’s something else to consider, too:
- 2020 hurricane forecast predicts ‘above-normal’ season with 2 to 4 major hurricanes. TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers, 3/26/20
- A pandemic meets hurricane season in Florida: What could go wrong? Palm Beach Post via Naples Daily News, 4/4/20
- Coronavirus could create ‘compound disaster’ in Florida as hurricane season looms. Miami Herald, 4/10/20
Florida’s Supervisors of Elections are planning ahead, and I urge you to, too.
Request a Vote-By-Mail Ballot
One thing you can do right now is request a Vote-By-Mail ballot for both the August and November elections.
It’s easy to do, right from home, online, by mail or by phone.
If you are a Collier County voter, go to www.colliervotes.com or call 239-252-VOTE (8683).
If you vote in another Florida county, find your Supervisor of Elections here.
You can make the request not only for yourself, but also for your spouse, your parent, your child, and/or any other member of your immediate family.
For each request, you will be asked for the voter’s name, legal residence address, date of birth, and address to which the Vote-by-Mail ballot will be mailed. THE U.S. POST OFFICE CANNOT FORWARD VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOTS.
You can request mail ballots for all elections through the next two general elections for which you are eligible to vote — which is what I recommend, or for just an individual election — which will mean you’ll have to make separate requests for August and November 2020. You can cancel the requests at any time.
And here’s another option for Collier voters: this Friday, April 17, 2020, the Supervisor of Elections will mail a Notice of Elections to registered voters about the upcoming elections. Included in that Notice will be a Vote-By-Mail request form that you can simply complete and mail in.
Think of It as an Insurance Policy
Requesting a Vote-By-Mail ballot does not mean you have to use it!
If, come Election Day, you prefer to vote in person, just bring the Vote-By-Mail ballot with you to the polls so it can be canceled.
If you lose or misplace it, go to your polling place anyway and just tell the poll worker! You will still be able to vote a regular ballot if the Supervisor of Elections’ office can confirm that you have not already voted, and if for some reason they can’t do that right away, you’ll be able to vote a provisional ballot. (For more on this, see the Florida Division of Elections Vote-By-Mail FAQs.)
So remember: requesting a Vote-By-Mail ballot will not lock you in, but it will give you the option if you need it.
Think of it as an insurance policy.
Call to Action
I hope I’ve convinced you to request Vote-By-Mail ballots now for the August and November 2020 elections. It’s the best way to ensure that you and your immediate family members will be able to vote safely and securely, regardless of the state of the coronavirus pandemic, and regardless of the state of the hurricane season.
DO IT TODAY — regardless of whether you expect, plan or intend to use it.
Ensure your ability to vote in the event your preferred way of voting is impossible or impracticable come Election Day.