Vote-by-mail a safe alternative during pandemic

Photo courtesy of The League of Women Voters of Philadelphia

Every four years, America votes for a new president or reelects the current president to serve a second term. 

But this year is different. With the COVID-19 pandemic cases arising, a majority of people are leery of standing in line to vote at their local precinct.

Now, the Florida Division of Elections has made vote-by-mail an option, but many citizens are not aware of the procedure, criteria, or deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot.

The League of Women Voters of Florida is a non-partisan organization that has been around for a hundred years. It encourages active citizenship and organizes candidate gatherings, provides voting resources to educate people regarding local elections, and aims to empower Florida voters and elected representatives to enhance their awareness of problems.

The league utilizes the method “plan, protect, and power the vote” to inspire people to take the time to vote by mail. It’s their form of upholding their power and having a significant role in out democracy during this global health crisis.

Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, descried how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the process of voting. She said you can track your ballot if you decide to vote by mail.

“The league is usually out, but due to the pandemic we are directing everybody to the website which informs citizens on everything they need for this 2020 presidential election such as, eligibility requirements, election dates, registration deadlines, polling place hours, verifying voter’s registration, ID needed for voter registration, and the absentee ballot process. If people choose to vote by mail, they can track their ballot by going to their supervisor election office or track their ballot through a link within the Division of Elections. Also, six new amendments to the state constitution will be on the ballot so it’s imperative that everybody reads those amendments before voting,” Brigham said.

The League of Women Voters of Florida is actively supporting vote-by-mail, and FAMU’s Student Government Association sent out an email announcing a National Black Voter Registration Day to encourage students ready to vote. The image sent out shows the criteria for voting in Florida, how to request a vote-by-mail ballot, and provides a website to check your registration status.

In order to be authorized to register to vote in Florida, a person must be a citizen of the United States of America; a legal resident of Florida and a resident of the county in which you request to register; be at least 18 years of age, not be mentally impaired, or convicted of a felony without obtaining your right to be reinstated.

Makira Burns, a student senator at FAMU, fully supported the National Black Voter registration Day.

FAMU Student Government Association flyer for the National Black Voters Day event encouraging students to vote.
Photo courtesy SGA

“Voting means that we are using our rights that our ancestors fought for and to ensure are concerns are addressed. Voting implies that we are keeping ourselves educated when dealing with politics and choosing candidates that will benefit our nation in the long run. The end goal for the National Black Voter Registration Day is to get as many Black people registered to vote as possible. Many minorities believe their vote does not count. However, this initiative will push minorities to think otherwise and spread the importance of the black vote,” Burns said.

Requesting a mail-in-ballot to guarantee ever vote is counted can be done through an individual’s county supervisor of elections website, by phone, in person or by writing. The request must include the voter’s name, address, date of birth, and signature. Every citizen’s signature must match the signature registered with the supervisor of elections office.

FAMU alumna Kia Bishop-Baker said it’s essential to vote. 

“We can’t expect change if we don’t do anything to implement change. By getting the opportunity to vote, we, as citizens, have the power to choose the leaders of our nation. There is no other time than now,” Bishop-Baker said.

For more information on voting in the 2020 election, go to the Election Divisions-Florida State Department or The League of Women Voters of Florida website. The deadline for submitting a vote-by-mail ballot is Oct. 24.