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While the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in many of our 2020 plans, one thing we cannot let coronavirus do is prevent us from voting. 

Even though many of us are not on campus or even in Gainesville, we must make an effort to remain civically engaged. This upcoming general election will have consequences in every city, county and state, as well as for the country as a whole. It is up to us to choose who our leaders will be. 

As young people, we are the generation who will face the consequences of the policies and people we choose to support now. So much is at stake, and with everything going on in the world, including the worst public health crisis in 100 years, some may be tempted to sit this one out.

We can’t.

Aside from the presidential race, there are important congressional and local candidates on the ballot whose policies and decisions will affect our lives in very direct ways. Voting grants us a seat at the decision table. It is easy to feel discouraged, as if our vote won’t matter, or like our representatives don’t actually care about our needs, but we have to remember that they work for us.

This is not the time for us to sit back and let others choose who represents us at every level of government. It is not the time to wait around hoping that next time we will like the candidates better. Regardless of what your political beliefs are, it is time to be active participants in our democracy and voice our desires to our elected officials, and one of the most basic ways to do this is to get out and vote.

Voting is a right and a duty — and it is actually quite easy to do. This election, like others before it, we have the option to vote by mail, vote early or vote in person on Election Day, which is Nov. 3. 

If you are registered to vote in Alachua County, you can go to VoteAlachua.com to update your registration, request a mail ballot, locate your polling place and find the list of acceptable forms of identification. If you are not registered to vote in Alachua County, you can visit the website of the Supervisor of Elections of your county where you can find all the information you need to make a plan to vote. 

Here is some important information to keep in mind as we approach the election:

  • Florida residents can register to vote online at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov. To be eligible to vote in the upcoming election, you must register by Oct. 5.

  • In Alachua County, early voting will run from Oct. 19 through Oct. 31. There are several early voting locations throughout the county including one on campus at the Reitz Union. All locations will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • If you choose to vote by mail, you must request your ballot by 5 p.m., Oct. 24. To return your ballot, you have the option of mailing it back, dropping it off at a secure drop box at any early voting site (during early voting hours) or dropping it off at the Alachua County Elections Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day. 

  • Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. To find your polling place, refer to VoteAlachua.com.

Our children will ask us if we voted in the 2020 election. Let’s make sure our answer is yes.

Karina Bravo is a communications and outreach intern for the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.