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Sunday, May 26, 2024

More than half of Alachua County’s registered voters cast their ballots before Election Day. Here’s what matters to them.

Vote by mail

Nearly 60% of registered voters, more than 113,000 people, have already cast their ballot in Alachua County. 

More than 54,000 people voted early in-person in Alachua County in the weeks leading into the election on Nov. 3. In the 2016 general election, about 80,000 county residents voted early and by mail combined. As of Sunday, 62,353 Democrats, 29,276 Republicans and 21,777 third party or non-party affiliated voters have voted.

Early voting in Alachua County started on Oct. 19 and ended Oct. 31. The county had six early voting locations. Four early voting locations were in Gainesville, one was in the city of Alachua and the other was in Hawthorne. 

Here are just a few of the more than 54,000 people who voted in person during early voting. Some worried about the rhetoric of American politics, others emphasized the importance of voting and supporting their candidate.

Dante DeBose, 30-year-old apartment management employee 

Dante DeBose, a 30-year-old Gainesville resident, voted for the first time on Sunday. As a Black man, Debose said voting is one of the most important things Black people can do right now.

“It's kind of hard to feel like we do really have as much freedom as we're getting told that we have,” he said. ”You have a right to vote, why not use it?”

This election marks the first time Debose has ever really educated himself about politics. He attended a “Souls to the Polls” event on Sunday near the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office, where he said he learned more about the candidates before casting his ballot.

The decision to vote in this election was easy to make, he said. Everything about this election, from the candidates to this year’s social movements, pushed him to vote.

DeBose wasn’t willing to share who he voted for, just that he was confident he “voted right.”

Brain Ardavin, 21-year-old UF student

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Brian Ardavin, a 21-year-old UF psychology senior, is a registered Democrat who voted early for former Vice President Joe Biden on Oct. 22 at the Reitz Union polling location at UF. 

The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office implemented COVID-19 precautions to its early voting locations around the county. At the Reitz Union polling location, Ardavin said he never felt unsafe. He said the lines at the Reitz Union were adequately spread out and everyone he saw wore a mask.

Ardavin has voted before, but never for president. 

“It felt good to be able to do something that might influence where the country goes for the next four years,” Ardavin said.

Ardavin said he voted for Biden because he’s seen too much hateful rhetoric in politics over the past four years. He said the former vice president could help fix that.

“There needs to be a reshaping in mindset and environment,” Ardavin said. “There's a lot that needs to be different.”

Alexis Speed, 36-year-old nurse

Alexis Speed, a 36-year-old nurse at UF Health Shands Hospital voted early at the Supervisor of Elections office on Oct. 25.

She decided to vote early because she didn’t want to stand in the long lines on Election Day. Speed also attended the “Souls to the Polls” event Sunday that encouraged people to vote early. 

“I would say it's definitely my civic duty to vote, especially to make sure that kids and everyone that's not able to vote still has their voice heard, and my own voice heard,” Speed said. “Especially this year with everything going on, this was definitely a major election year.”

Treavon Taylor, 32-year-old trash and recycle helper

Treavon Taylor, a 32-year-old Waste Corporation of America trash and recycle helper voted early at the Supervisor of Elections office. Taylor said he planned to mail in his ballot, but didn’t have time to send it in because he works 11-12 hour shifts.

Taylor said his church, Upper Room Ministries on 3575 NE 15th St. in Gainesville, encouraged him to go vote. He said he hasn’t voted since the 2012 election. Taylor said he didn’t have time with his hours for work, but this time his church encouraged it and he felt compelled to come out. Taylor is a registered Democrat and he said he voted for Biden. 

Lee Givens, 60-year-old school media aid

Lee Givens, a 60-year-old retired teacher and current school media aid, voted at the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center in Alachua. He planned to come and vote early, but not at the Legacy Park location. He said the other locations were too crowded. 

“We drove from Jonesville up to here because we heard that it wasn’t as long over here,” Givens said. “Sure enough, 15 minutes and we're done.”

Givens said he didn’t think there were enough early voting locations. He said six wasn’t enough and there should be one location in every town. Of Alachua County’s nine municipalities, only three have early voting locations. 

Givens said he voted for President Donald Trump. Givens said he has been a lifelong, conservative registered Republican, but Trump was not his first choice in 2016, and he would have preferred Republican nominees Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee, who both ran for president four years ago. However, he said Trump fulfilled all his promises on his campaign the last three and a half years, which is why he trusts him. 

Connie Richard, 55-year-old cashier 

Connie Richard, a 55-year-old cashier, voted at Legacy Park Multipurpose Center in Alachua, because the line was too long at the Tower Road Branch Library voting location in Gainesville. She is a resident of Newbery and although this location was out of the way, it was worth it for her. 

Richard said she did not plan on mail in voting because she does not believe it is safe this year.  She said she voted for Trump, and is currently a registered Democrat, but is going to change her registration. 

“He has been good for the last four years, so yeah, I believe he will do good,” Richard said. 

Richard said she didn’t really feel like there needed to be more locations for early voting. She said she waited about 10 minutes in the Legacy Park line. 

Keri Guynn, 35-year-old business owner 

Keri Guynn, a 35-year-old business owner of Serpentine Plants and Provisions on 209 NW 10th Ave., Gainesville, turned in her mail in ballot at the Supervisor of Elections office. She said she wanted to see her ballot go into the box herself.  

Guynn voted for Biden. She said she was a registered Independent in the past, but for the last two or three elections she changed her affiliation to Democrat. She said Biden was far from her first choice as a Democratic candidate, but between him and Trump, he was the best option. 

“It is important that I use my vote on behalf of people who don’t have the privilege to vote,” she said. 

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Anna Wilder

Anna Wilder is a second-year journalism major and the criminal justice reporter. She's from Melbourne, Florida, and she enjoys being outdoors or playing the viola when she's not writing. 

Steven Walker

Steven Walker is the Fall 2021 Editor in Chief of The Alligator. He has previously worked at the Orlando Sentinel; and has bylines in the Miami Herald, Associated Press and Florida Times Union. In his free time, he likes to take long walks with his dog Luna and watch his favorite sports teams, the Orlando Magic and the Green Bay Packers.

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