COVID-19 outbreak raises voting day concerns for college students

The Leon County Supervisor of Elections office. Photo by Brittany Jarret

Tuesday, March 17, remains voting day for the 2020 Florida Democratic Primary. This raises some concern to the college students of Tallahassee after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a Public Health Emergency in the state due to the national spread of COVID-19. Some students are now reluctant on how safe it might be at the polls.

Olivia Millien, a pre-med student at Florida State University, says it’s too hard to determine if she’ll be at the polls or not due to the rise in cases in Florida. She’s studying to be in the health field and has been learning more about the outbreak and what it can mean for her profession in the future.

“I don’t really want to say for sure now because I don’t know if the virus will make it to Tallahassee and what that would mean for us, or what it will affect,” said Millien. “This is severe and if that’s the case, I wouldn’t want to go and be around all those people in the voting center so we’ll just have to keep waiting to see.”

Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor of Elections, started his elections career in the 1980s. He says that he has never experienced a public health scare such as this one, but remains optimistic that his office is taking the necessary precautions to promote health safety.

“We’ve been taking measures along the CDC guidelines, along with the Florida Department of Health’s guidelines, to train our poll workers and our staff on how to keep areas clean and the need to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly,” said Earley.

Now while some students feel like Millien, there are others who believe that voting is extremely important and if a person is healthy and able to go vote, they should.

Shaniela Jarrett, a Florida A&M University education student, says if people are still going out to perform other daily activities such as work, partying, etc. then going out to vote should be prioritized as well.

“They’ll probably find somewhere to go today, tomorrow, and the next day so I don’t think the virus has affected us too much yet. Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and keep up with your basic hygiene to make sure you’re less likely to catch it,” said Jarrett.

According to the Leon County elections office, 20,743 early voting ballots, 15,207 mail ballots, and 88 provisional ballots were submitted as of 2:30 p.m. on March 16, the day before the election. The county has 172,758 active registered voters.

Voting is still open in all of Florida and should presume as scheduled. FAMU and FSU voting sites will remain open for students as well.