Voting Well Underway in Florida Ahead of Aug. 18 Primary Elections

By Garth A. Rose

Voters in South Florida through early voting and mail-in ballots are actively voting to elect candidates, including several Caribbean Americans, to offices in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Florida Legislature, circuit and county courts, school boards, county sheriff offices, and several other offices.

Early voting actually commenced in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties on August 3 and in Broward County on August 8. Despite the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, voters have been “voting steadily” at designated voting sites.

A supervisor at a polling place in West Kendall, Miami-Dade, where voters and workers all wore masks, and polling clerks busied themselves sanitizing polling machines, pens, and various surfaces, said there has been a steady trek since early voting began, but less than in past primary elections.

“Primary elections are usually not heavy voting events,” Muriel Gomez told CNW on visiting the polling site last Saturday. “But what is different this year is that quite a lot of voters have been coming here to drop off their mail-in ballots.”

Fearful of contracting the coronavirus, several South Florida voters have selected the option of requesting their ballots from county supervisor of elections offices. This voting option, which has been gaining in popularity in elections since 2012, has peaked significantly this year. The Miami-Dade Supervisory of Elections office cited a sharp increase in applications for mail-in ballots which allows voters to vote in the privacy on their homes, sign and mail, or otherwise return the ballots to the office.

However, seemingly displaying caution that their ballots could be held up in branches of the United States Postal Service, voters are utilizing the option of taking the completed ballots to the voting precincts.  

As explained by the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections office, there’s really no reason for voters to be concerned about mailing in their ballots. “We have no evidence of ballots being held up in post offices,” said David a staff member. “Voters who mail in their ballots can track the ballot to ensure it is received and counted. This can be done by visiting the supervisor of election website in any county, go to the mail-in ballot link, enter your name, age and zip code and voters can be able to track if their ballot is in and counted. Of course, they either also drop off the completed ballot at a polling site, or take it to the supervisor of elections office in the respective county.”

Lois Johnston, a West Kendall resident who voted by mail, and dropped off her ballot on August 6, said she did verify that her vote was received and counted. “My vote is safe,” she commented.

According to the Florida Department of State’s website, over 4.2 million Florida voters requested vote-by-mail primary election ballots, and nearly 1.5 million had been returned by Saturday morning, August 8, when early voting began in Broward County. 

The request for mail-in ballots this year compares to nearly 1.3 million mail-in ballots cast in Florida’s 2016 primary election. With 2.7 million ballots still to be returned (as of Saturday), mail-in votes this primary election will likely far surpass the totals from 2016.

South Florida voters are still required to wear masks as all three counties have mandated face-covering. Other COVID-19 protocols include no-touch check-in for voters, plexiglass between voters and poll workers, the wiping down of booths and no reusing of pens.

In South Florida, 22 early voting sites were opened in Broward County, 23 in Miami-Dade and 18 in Palm Beach County. Early voting ends on Sunday, August 16.

Voters who opt to vote in person on Primary Election Day, August 18, will be unable to vote at voting sites that were opened for early voting, but must visit the polling place listed on their voter registration card between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Some of the key races involving Caribbean Americans include the race for Broward County Sheriff, Mayor of the City of Miami Gardens, Miami Dade Commissioner District 9, and State Attorney for Miami County, in which Andrew Smalling, Lavern Deer, Marlon Hill and Melba Pearson, respectively, are seeking to be elected.

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