More than 50,000 Alachua County residents have requested mail-in ballots, and the number is growing. While voting by mail from the comfort of one’s home may reduce the spread of COVID-19, it poses new challenges to students in and outside of Gainesville.
Young people have the potential to make up the largest voting bloc in the U.S., but are historically among the lowest to cast a ballot. Without the accessibility or familiarity of on-campus polling for students who left the county, some fear that vote-by-mail may further dissuade young people from participating in the upcoming elections.
Some fear that vote-by-mail may further dissuade college students from participating in the upcoming elections.
The Alligator spoke with local experts to learn how young people and first time voters by mail can ensure that their vote is cast. Here’s what you need to know.
With a majority of UF classes moving online, many students have left the county and returned home — some at the behest of the university. Voters still have time to request a mail-in-ballot to participate in Alachua County’s election from afar.
The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. You can request a ballot by the Vote Alachua website, in person, by mail, by telephone or by fax.
“If you tried to request a ballot for this election after that deadline, we can't mail you one,” said director of communications at the Supervisor of Elections office, TJ Pyche.
Mail-in voters must ensure that the signature on their ballot envelope matches the signature on record, according to Vote Alachua. Mismatched or missing signatures may mean the ballot won't be counted.
To check if the signature was accepted, voters can contact the elections office or click on the “My Registration Status” tab on the Vote Alachua website. If the signature doesn’t match, they must complete and return a “Vote-by-Mail Ballot Cure” Affidavit before 5 p.m. on the second day after an election.
Voters may deliver the affidavit to the Supervisor of Elections in person, by mail, email or fax. They must enclose or attach a copy of identification.
Pyche advises voters to mail their ballots at least a week prior to the primary election day.
Pamela Goodman, the former President of the League of Women Voters in Florida, agreed. The system is going to be extremely overburdened, she said — more so than it ever has before. Voters shouldn’t delay returning their mail-in ballot.
Goodman encourages registered voters to utilize the registration status tool on the Vote Alachua website to track your mail-in ballots.
“One mistake can rule your vote invalid,” Goodman said. “That’s why it’s really important to be an educated voter and exercise your rights and responsibilities. We want your vote to count.”
Voters who are concerned about the reliability of the postal system have the option to drop off their ballot at any early voting location from Aug. 3 to Aug. 15, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or at the 24-hour drop box at the main entrance at the Supervisor of Elections office.
Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office, 515 N. Main St., Suite 100, Gainesville
Tower Road Branch Library, 3020 SW 75th St., Gainesville
Millhopper Branch Library, 3145 NW 43rd St., Gainesville
Legacy Park Multipurpose Center, 15400 Peggy Road, Alachua
Orange Heights Baptist Church, 16700 NE SR 26, Hawthorne
J. Wayne Reitz Union, 655 Reitz Union Drive, Ground Floor of the Career Connections Center, University of Florida Campus, Gainesville