Drives will register voters, provide election information

Aida Mallard
For The Guardian
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With primary elections fast approaching on Aug. 23, voters in Alachua County will make choices that may impact their lives.  

In order to be a part of the voting process, residents must be registered to vote. With that in mind, the Your Vote Matters Committee will host a voter registration drive from 4-7 p.m. Thursday (June 9) at the Heartwood Soundstage Farmers Market at 619 S. Main St. to help as many local residents as possible register to vote by July 25, which is the deadline to register to vote or change party affiliation before the Aug. 23 primary election in Florida.

Another voter registration drive will be held from 5-9 p.m. June 18 at the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave. The event will feature tabling, the dissemination of voting and election information, including early voting sites and times, and handouts provided by the Supervisor of Elections Office.

To help with voter registration, a coalition of several churches that make up the Your Vote Matters Committee will be sponsoring voter registration drives. The committee held its first voter registration drive on June 2 at the City Hall Plaza in downtown Gainesville. Nancy Parkinson, one of the coordinators of the committee, said two attendees registered to vote. She said attendees were able to change party affiliation, order vote by mail ballots and people (ex-felons) with obstacles to voting got help.

“This voter registration drive is open to anyone and definitely for ex-felons who have completed all the requirements to vote,” Parkinson said. “Most important is to remember to register one month before the election. Make sure you vote for city, county and school board candidates. They are the people that will impact you the most.”

Those interested in registering to vote will need a photo ID such as a driver’s license, Florida residency card, Social Security number,  current address, and if you have recently moved, bring your previous address.

Mary Bahr, another member of the Your Vote Matters Committee, is certified to  provide voter registration training.

Bahr said the three goals of the committee are to encourage people to vote and educate them on how to make sure their vote matters, register people to vote and help returning citizens (people with a felony conviction) to find out if they are eligible to vote and to register when all the requirements are met.

To help navigate the voting process, here is information you can use including places where you can register to vote, an overview of the primary election ballot and the general election.

You don’t  have to spend money on a postage stamp to mail your ballot because all Alachua County vote-by-mail ballots are prepaid. However, voters must make sure their vote-by-mail ballot gets to the Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. on election day. 

The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot for the Primary Election is 5 p.m. on Aug. 13 , which is the 10th day prior to election. Vote-by-mail ballots can be requested online at VoteAlachua.gov and by clicking on the vote by mail tab or by calling 352-374-5252. 

Aaron Klein, director of communications and outreach at the Supervisor of Elections Office, recommends mailing your ballot at least one week before the election. Drop boxes are available during early voting hours and from 7 a.m.–7 p.m. on Election Day.

To vote in the Primary Election on Aug.23, there are various ways to register including online at  www.RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov; in person from 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday-Friday at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office in the Josiah T. Walls Building at 515 N. Main St.; the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle, 2815 NW 13th St., Suite 302; Alachua County Public Libraries and at Alachua County public schools. For a comprehensive list, visit www.votealachua.com.

After hours, completed forms will be accepted provided they are received by 11:59 p.m. July 25 through the drop box outside the main entrance of the Elections Office. Voter registration forms are available online at VoteAlachua.com (Mailed forms must be completed and postmarked by the July 25 deadline) 

Klein said voters are encouraged to verify and update their voter registration information at www.votealachua.com/My-Registration-Status or by calling 352-374-5252. Voters must update their records if their signature has changed and the deadline to do so is 5 p.m. on the Monday before election day.  

Klein also said by law voters must update their address if it has changed.

“You need to be registered at your current address,” Klein said. “Make sure you have the correct address on your voter registration so that on election day you are voting at the right location.” 

Florida is a closed primary state, so voters who want to vote in a partisan primary election must be a registered voter in the party for which the primary is being held. 

The official candidate qualifying period will run from noon June 13 until noon June 17.

The General Election will be held on Nov. 8, and the voter registration deadline for that election will be Oct. 11

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