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Monday, May 10, 2021
Graphic of a map of East Gainesville

Tyra Edwards feels tired and ready for the election to end. 

Edwards, 50, plans on driving with her family in a full SUV from her Ironwood residence to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections on North Main Street. She will drop off a vote-by-mail ballot in the metal box adjacent to the building on the first day of early voting. 

With the general election less than two weeks away, voters are encouraging relatives to fight voter apathy. The added challenge of the coronavirus pandemic has pushed Gainesville residents, and voters throughout the nation, to request vote-by-mail ballots.  

Edwards did not want to risk losing her vote in transit. Her 31-year-old son and 24-year-old daughter will be casting their votes alongside hers, and she has encouraged her five grandchildren to witness their elders voting. She wanted to set an example for them. 

“Every time I run into people and we're talking, I ask: ‘Will you be voting? When will you be voting?’” she said.   

Edwards believes that morale is low in her community. Marginalized communities with limited resources and opportunities prioritize putting food on the table and paying rent; usually they are not thinking about voting, she said.

She’s participated in every election for the past ten years and votes Democrat. Healthcare is one of the issues that Edwards is concerned about; she hopes to see Obamacare remain intact after the elections and worries for all the people she knows who rely on it. 

East Gainesville residents have a promising chance of surpassing voting turnout from the previous elections, said TJ Pyche, director of communications and outreach at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.

But he won’t know for certain how many more people registered and voted until after the elections are over.

For two weekends, Pyche participated in neighborhood walks through precinct 33, which covers from Northeast 16th Ave to Northeast 39th Ave. He knocked on doors and took ten steps back before delivering voting information to East Gainesville residents. 

“They seem to know and have a plan for how they are going to vote,” he said. “There are societal barriers to voting. By sending out information, by going to people's neighborhoods, we hope to kind of break through some of that, and encourage people to participate.” 

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He helped residents update voter registrations before the Oct. 6 deadline and requested mail ballots for them. He remembers meeting a lot of first-time voters. 

“We’re confident that the community is going to turn out and have the necessary tools to do so,” he said. “Folks are excited and I think people are engaged.” 

Evelyn Foxx, president of NAACP Gainesville Chapter, has no doubt that there will be a significant turnout for Black voters in East Gainesville. 

Fox believes East Gainesville’s faith leaders and activists have done their part by combing the neighborhoods to register and inform first-time voters. The NAACP distributed informational pamphlets explaining each amendment on the ballot. 

“There will be a complete change with voter turnout. I think people are very upset,”she said. “And they want their voices to be heard.” 

The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot for the 2020 General Election is 5 p.m. on Oct. 24. 

Armando Grundy-Gomes, 40, feels drained from the nationwide political tension. However, as a U.S army veteran, he feels adamant about his right to cast a ballot. 

“I want to repeal and replace,” Grundy-Gomes said. “If you're looking for a specific outcome, if you don't cast your ballot, then there is no outcome. You have to accept the results as whatever they may fall.” 

Grundy-Gomes will do what it takes to make sure his vote counts. He opted for early-voting and will be submitting his ballot at Alachua County Supervisor of Elections. Grundy-Gomes  encouraged his friends and family to join him on Monday to drop off their votes, as soon as early voting is permitted.

He said East Gainesville residents like himself are tired but remain vigilant about taking their concerns to the polls. 

Doris Edwards, 73, wants candidates who care about her community. The night before going to the Supervisor of Elections office, she filled out her information with a ball-point pen, signed her name and enclosed her ballot. 

She prayed over the pink envelope before bed. The following morning, she pulled her hair back into a bun and put on a pair of black jeans. She wanted to dress up for the occasion. 

“There is just a feeling of accomplishment when you do it,” she said. “There's a deep bone marrow pride. When you do it, it’s like you own something. And I love doing that. But this year, it's different.”

As the president of the Lincoln Estates Neighborhood, Edwards considers herself a super voter. She encourages fellow residents to vote, and if they need a ride, she’ll get them in touch with volunteers who are willing to take them. 

She does community outreach from her home while minimizing her potential exposure COVID-19. Despite having to stay indoors, the act of voting has kept her hopeful. 

“It changes your whole life when you can get someone in office that thinks about you and the  problems that you have rather than sitting back and not voting,” she said.

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