The 2020 presidential election already broke several voting records, as more than 47 million Americans – including many college students — voted early. If 2020 marks the first time you will cast a ballot, you’d be wise to study up on the voting process and the candidates vying for your vote.
We created a quick voter guide to reading the Florida ballot full of tips and resources to help you vote.
Experts are concerned that people’s misconceptions about voting could leave them vulnerable to voter suppression tactics. Many people believe that you need both a voter registration card and an I.D to vote in Florida. The poll workers only require a form of photo I.D. before they give you your ballot. However, keep your voter registration card with you as it contains vital information, especially the address of your designated voting precinct. If you lose your voter card, you can always check Florida’s official registration page. If you live near the University of Florida and have no clue how to get to your precinct, Alachua County offers a precinct finder.
We have watched how polarizing the presidential election became via debates, town halls, and polls. However, your ballot represents more decisions than just choosing who governs the federal government. State and local government elections, including congressional races, mayoral elections and city elections, often don’t get the limelight but are just as important. These other voting decisions directly impact you, so it is essential to research your stance on Florida’s six amendments and your local government’s decisions.
Receiving and reading your ballot
Once you receive your ballot, it’s time to make your decisions. Fully mark the candidates and decisions you support by filling in the entire oval. If you make a mistake on your ballot, don’t cross it out as this will invalidate it; ask a poll worker for a new ballot. Please don’t take any pictures with your ballot as in Florida; it leads to an invalid ballot. Save that selfie for the sticker afterward.
The first string of names at the top left corner consists of the presidential candidates with their vice presidents. The ballot lists the candidate’s full names along with their political party, so don’t be alarmed when you see Joseph Biden or Donald John Trump. Once you’ve cast your vote and got rid of the presidential voting chills, you’re ready to move to the congressional candidates.
Federal Congressional candidates
This section shows the two or more candidates running for congressional seats in your district. The candidates vary across the state, so be sure to research their stance and political parties before entering the voting booth. Most news organizations give quick voter guides offering a synopsis of each candidate.
Soon after you’ve picked your congressional candidates you’ll find a list of county government positions and candidates. People often ignore local government politics, yet county and city officials make most of the decisions in everyone’s day-to-day life. Before you just choose the incumbent – the person currently holding office – choose a county official that aligns with your beliefs and wants.
Picking judges for the district courts, the court of appeals and the state’s supreme court requires a little research. Although you may not think these courts affect your day-to-day life, the judicial system reviews many cases that change Florida residents’ liberties. Keeping a close eye on the beliefs, case decisions, and judges’ agenda helps us have a more prominent role as a citizen.
With the judges out of the way, it’s now time to examine another critical part of Florida’s election: the amendments. These six constitutional amendments cover the grounds of property taxes, minimum wage and voting rights.
The amendment as on the ballot states:
“The amendment provides that only United States citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election.”
Although voter registration already requires those regulations for voting in elections, the push secures “only citizen” rights. Currently, every citizen of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida. The amendment sparks concerns about individuals’ voting rights.
YES: You support the amendment in changing the requirement to “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida’s elections.
NO: You disapprove and want to keep the current regulations the same.
The second amendment on the ballot deals with minimum wage increases.
“Raises the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, the minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.”
Currently, Florida’s minimum wage starts at $8.56 and is adjusted annually to compensate for inflation. The amendment would increase the minimum wage immediately to $10 as of September 30th next year and gradually increase $1 every year until it reaches $15. The amendment would leave behind the decision of businesses to set wages for their staff.
YES: You agree with the minimum wage increase that affects everyone hired in Florida.
NO: You disagree with the amendment and keep the current minimum wage of $8.56. (will be adjusted annually)
The third amendment up for approval brings drastic changes to Florida’s future elections as it would shift the system from closed primaries to open primaries.
“Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for the state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. The two highest vote getters advance to the general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held, and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on the ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.”
Currently, Florida allows for closed primaries, which means that you registered under the same party to vote for a Republican candidate or Democratic candidate. Open primaries would allow for independent registered voters to vote in the primary elections. However, some people prefer closed primaries because it prevents people from the opposite party from voting for an unpopular candidate and swaying the primaries.
YES: you agree with opening up the primaries, allowing independent voters to cast ballots in the primary elections.
NO: you disagree and want to keep the current system.
The fourth amendment covers another voting rights issue.
“Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.”
Passing the law would require future amendments to be voted on twice in elections before they are passed. Currently, we have a 60 % requirement for amendments becoming law in Florida. The law would require higher approval before passing an amendment.
YES: You agree that an amendment would need the approval of 60% of voters in two elections before passing as law.
NO: You disagree with the double approval and agree with keeping the current system.
The fifth amendment deals with property taxes. Although though it may not directly impact you as a college student, it’s still prevalent that you vote on such a vital decision.
“Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective January 1, 2021, to increase, from 2 years to 3 years, the period during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.”
The amendment would increase the time of which the benefits are transferred from house to house. It’s crucial to analyze tax breaks and see the pros and cons before agreeing with the legislature. Anytime there is a tax break, fewer taxes are raised from local government taking away funds from public schools, libraries, and other available services.
YES: You agree with extending the time to transfer the “Save Our Homes” benefit from 2 years to 3 years.
NO: You disagree with the extension, keeping the period to two years.
Finally, amendment 6 covers the issue of veterans’ spouses and taxes.
“Provides that the homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to such veteran’s surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021.”
Veterans make up a significant portion of Florida’s population and electorate; the amendment would allow a property tax break for surviving spouses of veterans who were disabled in combat.
YES: You approve of the change of a property tax break transfer to spouses of deceased veterans who were disabled in combat.
NO: you disagree with the transfer of property tax break to the surviving spouse of combat-disabled veterans.
County and City amendments
These amendments all differ depending on your county and city. Pay attention to what legislation local lawmakers want to pass, and keep a close eye on what voting “yes” means. Since local government impacts daily life very directly, research the implications that the new legislation could mean for you. If you feel unsure, do some research and find reputable sources that break down local amendments’ meaning.
You’re all done. Congratulations, you’ve officially filled out the 2020 ballot. Now comes the critical part: casting your ballot. Ensure that you hand in your ballot with your privacy sleeve as a “naked” ballot can invalidate your vote. Follow the poll worker’s directions in casting the ballot, usually waiting for a ding. If you mailed your ballot or dropped it off, make sure to check its status. Don’t forget to pick up that lovely sticker and proudly wear it.
Tips and resources
Due to the stakes of the 2020 election, many organizations pushed harder for voter engagement this year. With just a quick search, one can find plenty of voting resources, such as Vote.org, rockthevote.org. Many accounts like “soyouwanntalkabout” explain the different candidates and their agendas on Instagram. “Voter turnout on its own has had more momentum than it ever had, at least in my life… There are quite a few resources out there like Ballotpedia, will help you look up each individual issue on the ballot,” said Allison Bordini, a volunteer for the Alachua County Democratic Party. You can even find websites and resources specific to your college town.
Local elections need extra consideration from voters. Don’t go off of what you hear in mainstream media. “When it comes to the county-specific stuff, that’s what they need to dedicate much more time to actually research because local level stuff impacts you more directly than federal laws often do,” said University of Florida senior Eric Archer. Prepare yourself before Tuesday rolls around so you know which circles to bubble in.
Keep your stickers
Speaking of stickers, once you get your voting sticker, keep it close. There are plenty of organizations giving free goodies whenever you show them your voting sticker on Election Day. Krispy Kreme is giving out free donuts on Nov. 3 to anyone who comes in with a voting sticker. A sweet reward for exercising your right.
Remember that there are plenty of organizations pouring out content and offering clarifications on voting laws, voter suppression and general rules of voting. Come to the polls with your research done and ready to cast that magical ballot.