opinion

As a student, it can be easy to forget about elections because of everything else going on in your life. With classes, part-time jobs and other extracurricular activities, it’s intimidating to even think about fitting an election into an already chaotic schedule. Luckily, voting is convenient and effortless, thanks to a variety of voting options. 

The 2020 election cycle is nearly upon us. Whether you are an experienced voter or a first-time voter, it’s important to be familiar with how the process works so you can make sure your voice is heard.

Florida’s 2020 Presidential Preference Primary is March 17. Those registered in Gainesville’s city limits will also vote in the City of Gainesville Regular Election on this day. 

Being familiar with your ballot before Election Day will ensure confidence when going to the polls. Find a sample ballot for your county and research the candidates and issues on it before you vote. Those who represent you in every office influence policies that affect your life.

Once you have an idea of who and what you are voting for, you should choose the best option for how you want to vote. Voters have three options for participating in elections: vote-by-mail, early voting and voting on Election Day.

For many students, voting by mail is a great option. Voters who are registered in their home counties can request a mail ballot to be sent to their Gainesville address to avoid having to travel home to cast their ballot. Alachua County residents can also vote by mail. No matter where you are registered, vote-by-mail is a convenient and secure option for students who may not have time to get to the polls during early voting or on Election Day.

Voters should mail their ballots at least one week before Election Day to be counted in time. Elections offices need additional time to contact you in the event of an issue, and the deadline to return the ballot is 7 p.m. on Election Day. 

Alachua County voters have another option to vote before Election Day. Early voting will take place from March 6 to March 14 every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. An accessible early voting location for UF students is the Reitz Union. Stop by between classes to skip the Election Day lines and get your vote in early.

The other five early voting locations for Alachua County are the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office, Tower Road Branch Library, Millhopper Branch Library, Legacy Park Multipurpose Center and Orange Heights Baptist Church. Voters can only use these locations during early voting. On Election Day, you must vote at your assigned polling location.

Students registered in other counties also have the option to vote early in their respective county. Look for early voting dates and locations on your home county’s Supervisor of Elections website.

Election Day is March 17. Alachua County voters can vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can find your voting precinct at VoteAlachua.com or by calling 352-374-5252. Voters from other counties can find specific voting information on their home county’s Supervisor of Elections’ website. 

It is incredibly important to vote in every election. The habits we create now are the ones that will follow us our whole lives. Make voting one of them.

Natalie Lopez is an intern for the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections