By Jalen Williams
The Coronavirus pandemic has altered the lives of citizens across the United States. The pandemic has also been a topic of debate amongst presidential and vice presidential candidates. With the General Election weeks away, it is important for voters to be aware of their options for voting during the pandemic, and what to expect at polls on election day.
One aspect of voting that has not changed this election is voters’ ability to mail in their ballots. “Vote by Mail” ballots were made available upon request starting on September 24, 2020, and many voters have already received them. Voters can request ballots online at leonvotes.gov/Request-a-Mail-Ballot, or by calling the Leon Supervisor of Elections office at 850-606-8683. The office is located on Apalachee Parkway.
Those voting by mail have the option of returning their ballot via the United States Postal Service or in person at the Supervisor of Elections office. The deadline to request a “Vote by Mail” ballot is October 24, 2020.
Mark S. Earley, the Supervisor of Elections in Leon County, says they have sent out about 85,000 “Vote by Mail” ballots thus far, which is double the amount they have seen in previous years. For those skeptical about mailing in their ballot, Earley offers this reassurance, “The mailing system does not have to be used to return “Vote by Mail” ballots,” he stated. “Voters are able to drop off mailed ballots in person, by going to the Supervisor of Elections office.”
In spite of Coronavirus, voters will still be allowed to go out to the polls and vote. Early voting begins Monday, October 19, 2020, and will continue for two weeks until Sunday, November 1.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. All ballots must be in by 7 p.m. to be eligible for counting. Voters who intend to go to the polls can expect procedures to be similar to previous elections, but with a few changes. Voting sites will be equipped with cleaning and sanitizing stations, and all poll workers will be wearing masks or face shields to assist voters.
Earley is encouraging all those who vote in person to wear a mask while waiting at the polls. He also ensured that poll workers will do their best to keep stations sanitized after usage, and that social distancing guidelines will be enforced.
Earley also suggested that voters practice with a mock ballot to decrease time per person at the polls. “Knowing what amendments you’re going to vote before election day, can really cut back on time you spend voting,” he says.
Even with the Supervisor of Elections ensuring safe practices at the polls, there are still those who will be mailing their ballots to ensure their own safety.
Kenia Howard, a math teacher at Governors Charter Academy has already received her ballot in the mail, and plans to return it that way. “This is my first time voting by mail. I usually go to polls, but due to Covid I want to be safe,” she said.
However, there are those that will wait until Election Day to vote. First time voter Deion Green, a public health major at Florida State University, said he will be voting at the polls on Election Day.
“I don’t trust the mail in ballots, I believe they get thrown out during most elections,” he says. When asked if he believed the pandemic would effect the voting in any way Green said, “I do believe the pandemic will effect voting this term because everyone doesn’t feel comfortable going to the polls, which could result in thousands of mail in ballots not counted properly,” he said.
Whether mailing in ballots or voting in person, voters should be reminded that all ballots must be submitted by November 3 at 7 p.m. For more information on voting or to request a ballot, visit www.leonvotes.gov.