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Voting 101: Understanding the upcoming midterm election and your rights and choices

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Posted at 1:39 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-17 08:56:54-04

With the 2018 midterm elections coming up, here are some common questions and answers for voters to better understand the candidates and process.

See also: Florida's constitutional amendments in plain English

VOTING 101

When is Election Day?

Tuesday, November 6, 2016

Who can vote?

To be eligible to vote in Florida you must:

√ Be a citizen of the US
√ Be a resident of Florida
√ Be 18 years old on or before the day of the election
√ Not be convicted of a felony (or have had your full rights restored by the state)
√ Not be adjudicated as mentally incapacitated

Do I need an ID to vote?

You must provide a valid ID that shows your signature and photo (or one with your signature and another with your photo). The following are examples of accepted IDs:

√ Florida driver’s license
√ Florida identification card
√ US passport
√ Government employee card
√ Military identification
√ Student identification
√ Veteran health identification (from the US Department of Veterans Affairs)

If you don’t have a valid ID or if it is lost, you must request a “provisional ballot” and sign it. Your provisional ballot will be examined by the Supervisor of Elections for eligibility and, if deemed to be valid, will be counted as a vote.

What about early voting?

Florida allows for early voting. It depends on the county in Florida, but most counties have early voting from October 27, 2018 to November 3, 2018. Early voting periods were limited by Governor Rick Scott, but the state now mandates a minimum of 8 days for early voting and permits individual county Supervisors of Elections to offer additional “optional” days of early voting. (Contact your country Supervisor of Elections to see if your county offers optional days.) There are fewer polling places open for early voting than for voting on November 6, and the polls are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

What about vote-by-mail or “absentee” voting?

Florida allows for absentee voting or voting-by-mail. You can request (in person, in writing, by phone, or online) an absentee ballot through the Supervisor of Elections in your county and it will be mailed to you. You no longer need a reason to vote by mail, such as being out of the county on Election Day. However, you must request the absentee/vote-by-mail ballot six days prior to the election and these ballots must be received by the Supervisor of Elections by 7:00 PM on Election Day.

Overseas uniformed members of the armed services and American citizens living overseas have a deadline of September 22, 2018 for the vote-by-mail ballot. 

Where do I vote?

Your voter identification card will list the location of your precinct/polling site or you can simply contact the Supervisor of Election in your country. You must vote in your assigned polling site on Election Day and the polls are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

What if I have questions about where to vote, how to vote, or the candidates?

The League of Women Voters has an informative, non-partisan guide that can help you with all these questions. Visit www.vote411.org

SAMPLE BALLOT

U.S. SENATOR

□ Rick Scott (Republican)
Link:  https://rickscottforflorida.com/
□ Bill Nelson (Democrat)
Link:  https://www.nelsonforsenate.com/
□ Howard W. Knepper (Write-in candidate)
□ Charles Frederick Tolbert (Write-in candidate)
□ David Weeks (Write-in candidate)
□ Lateresa A. Jones (Write-in candidate)
□ Michael Levinson (Write-in candidate)

Here is a link for the US Senate:  https://www.senate.gov/

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The specific candidates on the ballot depend on the congressional district in which you live. All 435 seats in the U.S. House are up for election every two years.

Here is a link for the US House of Representatives:  https://www.house.gov/

FLORIDA GOVERNOR/LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

□ Ron DeSantis/Jeanette Nunez (Republican)
    Link:  https://rondesantis.com/
□ Andrew Gillum/Chris King (Democrat)
    Link:  https://andrewgillum.com/
□ Darcy G. Richardson/Nancy Argenziano (Reform)
□ Kyle Gibson/Ellen Wilds (No party affiliation)
□ Ryan Christopher Foley/John Tutton, Jr. (No party affiliation)
□ Bruce Stanley/Ryan Howard McJury (No party affiliation)
□ Piotr Blass (Write-in candidate)
□ Harold Frederick Johnson (Write-in candidate)

FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL

□ Ashley Moody (Republican)
    Link:  https://www.electashleymoody.com/
□ Sean Shaw (Democrat)
    Link:  https://seanshaw.com/how-we-win/
□ Jeffrey Marc Siskind (No party affiliation)

FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

□ Jimmy Patronis (Republican)
    Link:  https://joinjimmy.com/
□ Jeremy Ring (Democrat)
    Link:  https://jeremyring.com/
□ Richard Paul Dembinsky (Write-in candidate)

FLORIDA AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER

□ Matt Caldwell (Republican)
    Link:  https://votecaldwell.org/
□ Nicole Fried (Democrat)
    Link:  https://nikkifried.com/

STATE SENATE

The specific candidates on the ballot depend on the district in which you live. State senators serve four-year terms.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE

The specific candidates on the ballot depend on the district in which you live. State representatives serve two-year terms.

COURTS

The specific candidates on the ballot depend on the district in which you live. Florida elects judges and incumbent judges must seek reelection. There are various types of judges, including circuit court and county court judges, who run in non-partisan elections and serve six-year terms. Some judicial elections occur in the Primary Election and others in the General Election. There are also “retention elections” in that the judges’ names appear on the ballot with the wording “Shall Judge [name] be retained in office?” Voters are given a simple “Yes” and “No” response. 

LOCAL OFFICES

There may be numerous local offices such as County Commissioner, “Soil & Water Conservation,” and “Beach & Parks” on the ballot. 

LOCAL ORDINANCES & INITIATIVES

There may be local ordinances on the ballot and they depend on where you live. For instance, Palm Beach County has a county district school measure. Here is the wording:

REFERENDUM TO APPROVE AD VALOREM LEVY FOR SCHOOL SAFETY, TEACHERS AND OPERATIONAL NEEDS

Shall the School Board of Palm Beach County have authority to levy 1.00 mills of ad valorem millage dedicated for operational needs of non-charter district schools to fund school safety equipment, hire additional school police and mental health professionals, fund arts, music, physical education, career and choice program teachers, and improve teacher pay beginning July 1, 2019 and automatically ending June 30, 2023, with oversight by the independent committee of citizens and experts?

Voters have the choice: “Yes” or “No”
                                                   
BALLOT AMENDMENTS

See related: Florida constitutional amendments in Plain English                     

HELPFUL SOURCES ON CANDIDATES & ISSUES

Vote411 from the League of Women Voters
This site offers customized information on your ballot, your local races, and an online voter guide. It is hosted by the League of Women Voters. Simply enter your address on the prompt and you can learn about your ballot and candidates.
Link:  https://www.vote411.org/

PolitiFact 
PolitiFact, a division of the Tampa Bay Times newspaper, is an independent fact-checking website aimed at reporting the truth in politics. They were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. The website checks statements from elected officials for accuracy using the site’s Truth-O-Meter.
Link:  https://www.politifact.com/

Open Secrets from the Center for Responsive Politics
The Center for Responsive Politics is a nonpartisan, independent, and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics. The Center’s mission is to inform citizens about the impact of money in politics, empower voters by providing unbiased information, and advocate for a transparent and responsive government.
Link:  https://www.opensecrets.org/

Project Vote Smart 
Project Vote Smart is dedicated to strengthening what they believe to be the most essential component of democracy – access to information. They take no money from special interest groups, PACs, and corporations and report information on candidates for public office. 
Link:  https://votesmart.org/

Fact Checker from the Washington Post
The truth behind the political rhetoric and claims, fact-checked by journalists known as the “truth squad.”
Link:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/

Fact Check 
Fact Check is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocate for voters with a goal of reducing deception and confusion in politics and campaigns by monitoring the factual accuracy of statements by politicians and newsmakers. It is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Link:  https://www.factcheck.org/

Ballotpedia
A helpful service that allows voters to see sample ballots, find out which candidates and measures are on the ballot, and other information on campaigns and elections. Also provides information on judges, courts, and elections for judicial positions.
Link:  https://ballotpedia.org/

League of Women Voters 
The League is dedicated to ensuring that all eligible voters have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote. The League provides information and assistance to register and educate voters and also promotes both voting rights and reforming the nation’s campaign finance system. The League operates chapters in counties throughout Florida. 
Link:  https://www.lwv.org/

10 COMMON VOTING MYTHS

Myth 1: If your name doesn’t appear on the voter roll at the polling site you can’t vote.  
No, you can vote but you will need to do so with a provisional ballot.

Myth 2: If you recently moved and forgot to inform the election office you can’t vote.  
No, you can still vote as long as you live in the state and are a registered voter, but you will need to vote with a provisional ballot.

Myth 3: Absentee ballots really don’t count unless there is a tied election.  
No, absentee ballots count like regular ballots in every state.

Myth 4: If you were convicted of a felony you can’t vote. 
Well, this one is complicated. Each state has its own laws about whether former felons can vote. In Florida, felons lose their right to vote but can petition to regain their right through the Executive Clemency Board. 

Myth 5: If you wear a political shirt or candidate’s button, you’ll be turned away at the polls.
No, if you are a registered voter you can’t be turned away, unless you are disruptive or breaking a law. However, active campaigning is prohibited in the voting area.

Myth 6: If you have an unpaid parking ticket you can’t vote. 
No, you can vote even if you have unpaid parking tickets, owe child support, and so on. Polling sites do not have information about such matters.

Myth 7: If you were registered to vote by ACORN your registration is invalid. 
No, as long as the individual(s) registering you (from any organization) filed accurate information with the elections office you are registered.

Myth 8: If your address on your driver’s license doesn’t match the address on your voter card, you can’t vote. 
No, it does not need to match, although you may be asked to complete a provisional ballot.

Myth 9: If you receive food stamps or welfare you can’t vote. 
No, you can still vote… whether or not you receive these supports, or student loans, federal grants, Medicaid, and so on.

Myth 10: I can’t register to vote using my school address because I will be dropped from my parents’ health insurance coverage. 
No, you will not be dropped.