If the confusion surrounding deadlines and voting by mail during the primaries is any indication, Florida may need to ramp up efforts to get ready for the November election.
“We will see how the participation will be and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic [in the primary elections],” Ricardo J. Negrón-Almodóvar, coordinator at the organization LatinoJustice, told The Americano.
The attorney said that the different deadlines in Florida counties for early voting could limit citizen participation. “Deadlines vary in counties, and some supervisors of elections are putting a lot of effort in promoting the participation, the submission of materials on time, and voting by mail. However, there are others who didn’t try very hard.”
Negrón-Almodóvar mentioned that some counties, such as Orange and Osceola, extended the 10-day minimum deadline to request early voting for the primaries from August 3 to August 16. But other counties like Lee gave from August 8 to August 15.
“More days offered, best chance to participate,” the attorney said.
Voters have until Oct. 5 to register for the general election on Nov. 3. The minimum early voting period is from Oct. 24 to Oct. 31.
Soraya Márquez, state director of Mi Familia Vota, an organization dedicated to promoting Latino participation in the election process, said that she has seen a lack of knowledge about the U.S. election system.
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“There are a lot of people that don’t even know which county they live in. They can provide their address, but when you ask them their county, they don’t know which county they represent,” she said.
Voting by Mail Is Anticipated to Be One of the Preferred Options
Although voting by mail is being encouraged because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the process is not well known in some communities, like Puerto Ricans who migrated to Florida, Negrón-Almodóvar said.
A recently published analysis, prepared by researcher Diana Cao from Healthy Elections, found that the groups more likely to have their vote-by-mail ballots rejected are voters between the ages of 18-29 and 30-44, first-time voters, Blacks, and Hispanics.
“The voting-by-mail ballot has to be requested at a specific date, signed with the same signature filed on record, and it has to be sent at least one week early to be sure that your vote is counted,” Negrón-Almodóvar warned.
He also said that even though the most secure option due to the pandemic is voting by mail, their organization understands that there are people who cannot buy a postage stamp. The attorney recommended that counties take the initiative of sending the ballot with a stamped envelope.
“You cannot return a ballot without a postage stamp in some counties. Some people cannot sign the way they signed. In that case, voters have to update their signature,” said Negrón-Almodóvar.
Ballots from voters who forget to sign or do not sign the same way they did on their driver’s license, and voters who send in their vote late may not be counted. Ballots have to arrive before 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Latino Participation Is Expected Despite COVID-19
According to Pew Research Center, 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential elections.
Fear of contracting Covid-10 could lessen participation in this election, however, organizations such as LatinoJustice and Mi Familia Vota said they believe that the Latino community’s involvement would be notable.
“These elections are crucial for our Hispanic community. These elections represent the future of our community, our immigrants, and sectors that are part of it,” Márquez said.
Negrón-Almodóvar also mentioned that the fact that more Latino candidates are running for office could motivate Latinos to vote. Furthermore, Florida will provide Spanish-language ballots for those who prefer to vote in their primary language.
“Due to the migration of Puerto Ricans to Florida, requesting Spanish in the election process was needed. They are U.S. citizens with the right to vote and doing it in their first language,” said Márquez.