It was my sophomore year at UF. I was deep into classes for my major, juggling a part-time job, internship and trying to find time to enjoy the Gators football season. I had just moved from a dorm into my first apartment and was trying my best to learn how to do adult things like shop for groceries for the week and pay the cable bill.
As a UF student, it is impossible to miss all of the messaging and advertisements promoting voter registration. From people tabling at the Turlington Plaza to constant ads in your social media feed, organizations are really good at making sure college students are registered to vote. As I passed by the table at Turlington, I dismissed the students working the table with a smile and a polite “Thank you, I’m already registered!”
At 19 years old, this was the first presidential election I had the opportunity to vote in. I watched the debates, delicately chatted politics with friends and was looking forward to making my voice heard. It felt like a real coming-of-age moment.
Despite my excitement, I failed to vote in the 2012 election.
The week of the election, I would learn that being registered to vote was only step one in my incomplete voting plan. The trouble was, I was still registered to vote at my mom’s address which was two hours away in Apopka, a suburb in north Orlando. By the time I realized this, it was too late to order a mail-in ballot.
On Election Day, I debated making the four-hour round trip to vote at my designated polling location back home. Busy with an economics exam to study for and an assigned shift at my job, I chose not to make the trip. I missed that coming-of-age moment I was so excited for.
I really believe this will be the most important election of our lifetime. Don’t miss your opportunity to cast your first vote in a presidential election.
Let’s fast forward to today. I’m the vice president of operations for SwampRentals.com, a website that helps students find apartments near campus. Because we’ve helped so many students find apartments with temporary addresses, I feel an enormous social responsibility to make sure students don’t fail to vote like I did.
Here’s what you need to do to earn that special coming-of-age moment I missed out on:
Make sure you are registered to vote. That part is easy, just visit registertovoteflorida.gov/home and click “Am I already registered?” The deadline to register to vote online is Oct. 5, so don’t procrastinate!
Once you are certain you are registered to vote, you’ll have a few options to cast your ballot from Gainesville depending on which address you are registered at:
Option 1: Request an absentee ballot. If you’re registered to vote at your home address, you can request an absentee ballot to be delivered to your Gainesville apartment address.
Pro tip: It is a common problem for students to forget to include their apartment number when providing their address. Make sure you include your apartment number and bedroom number (if applicable) so that your mail-in ballot can be delivered to your apartment address.
You’ll request your absentee ballot from your local Supervisor of Elections. Find your supervisor’s website at dos.elections.myflorida.com/supervisors/ then locate the section where you can request an absentee ballot.
You’ll need to fill out the ballot and mail it back to your supervisor of elections. Complete your ballot as soon as you receive it and mail it back early so you can make sure your vote is counted.
Option 2: Update your registration address to your Gainesville apartment so you may vote in person at an Alachua County polling location.
Visit registertovoteflorida.gov/eligibilityreactive and complete the questionnaire. Check the box for “Record update/change (eg. Address…)” and complete the entire form.
Once you are registered to vote at your local Gainesville apartment address, you can look up your polling place at www.votealachua.com/Voters/Precinct-Voting-1/Precinct-Finder . To cast your vote, mask up and head to an early voting location between Oct. 19-31 in Alachua or to your designated location on Election Day, Nov. 3.
It’s prime time to make a voting plan so you can make sure your voice is heard in the 2020 election. Go make sure you’re registered and request an absentee ballot or update your address. Go Gators!
Sydney Jamieson serves as the vice president of operations for SwampRentals.com.