For those who haven’t voted, only nine days remain until the Nov. 8 general election, where people will tackle Election Day lines at the polls and anxiously cast ballots for political candidates.
With Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton being the highlight of the 2016 election season, many are scrambling to educate themselves on local and state officials and constitutional amendments that will also be on the ballot.
“There’s a lot [at stake for this election]. The presidential election is important because it determines the direction of the country,” said Florida State University Professor Carol Weissert. “We have a U.S. Senate seat that may go from Republican control to Democratic control based on the election.”
Voting in Leon County
For Leon County, early voting started Monday, Oct. 24 and continues until Sunday, Nov. 6. Voters are able to go to seven different precincts including the Leon County Courthouse, B.L. Perry Branch Library, Eastside Branch Library, Fort Braden Branch Library, Lake Jackson Community Center, Northeast Branch Library and the Woodville Community Center.
“Nov. 6 will be the first time that Leon County has established both weekend days as voting days,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho. “The Voting Operations Center on Apalachee Parkway and the Courthouse will be open for emergency voting. Individuals will be able to cast their ballots Monday and Tuesday.”
Sancho went on to say, “We have more voting locations than we’ve ever had in our history. I think that’s leading to a record turnout. Our previous high for early voting was 47,000 [people] in 2012. We’re going to surpass that.”
As of Sunday Oct. 29 at 10:30 am, 23,171 ballots had been cast. To view unofficial early voting results, www.leonvotes.org is updated every 15 minutes with voter turnout by precinct and by political party affiliation.
“People have certainty that when you vote in Leon County, your vote is going to count as you intended,” said Sancho.
During the 2016 election cycle, several Constitutional amendments will be on the ballot. With media spotlight primarily focusing on political candidates, many voters may not be aware of these potential changes. All amendments require a 60 percent approval by voters to become law.
Amendment 1 focuses on the right for Florida residents to own or rent solar electricity for their homes, while being protected by the Constitution. Supporters believe the passing of the amendment will make solar energy panels more accessible, and encourage alternative energy sources. Opponents fear that power companies will force those who don’t use solar panels to subsidize the cost to cover the monetary losses for major power plants.
Amendment 2 is back on the ballot after narrowly missing enough votes to pass in 2014. If passed, this will legalize medical marijuana for people suffering a debilitating medical condition throughout the state. However, recreational use or sale of marijuana would still be illegal and punishable by law. Patients, caregivers, registered marijuana treatment centers, and licensed prescribing doctors would not be subject to criminal prosecution and protected under state law.
Under Amendment 3, permanently disabled first responders injured in the line of duty would be exempt from paying property taxes.
With Amendment 5, Florida residents 65-years-old and above, that are living in homes valued less than $250,000 would be able to keep a pre-existing homestead exemption.
Power of the Young Vote
During the 2008 and 2012 general elections, young and first-time voters were pivotal in electing President Barack Obama. With an estimated 69.2 million millennials being of voting age, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are targeting college students across the country in hopes of securing their votes.
For many college-aged students, this is their first time being able to participate in a presidential election.
“I was really excited and anxious to cast my vote,” said Florida A&M University healthcare management student, Kathryn Lewis. “After I voted I thought to myself, ‘Wow. You just voted in your very first Presidential Election. I really just made my decision on who will be the next Commander-In-Chief.’ ”
However, some students have lackluster outlooks for the way this election cycle has been chronicled since its 2015 start. E-mail controversies, derogatory commentary and attack ads have spread throughout the media, causing turmoil amongst political parties and their supporters.
“Having candidates like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is a slap in the face of what some may call the American Dream. This election season has become more of a joke and a sick satire, rather than an event that I’m inspired about to go exercise my vote,” said Florida State University political science student, Lacy McMullen.
First time and undecided voters who may be overwhelmed by election information and political stances, many turned to social media and local television stations to educate themselves.
“I educate myself by watching the news. I make sure I tune in to [every] Presidential debate and watch both parties make their arguments,” said Lewis. “I also Googled each candidate.”
McMullen advised those who may be wavering on a candidate choice to “do your own research and block out society’s views.”
He added, “Every group in this country votes on how that candidate will benefit them. Think about how this candidate will benefit you and your interests based on their positions.”