By Shevrin Jones
The upcoming election on November 3rd may be the most important of our lifetime. Over the next 40 days, we have a chance to course-correct from the dangerous path we’re on as a country. We have a chance to put people before party and to elect leaders who will work hard to save American lives and livelihoods in the midst of the most horrific pandemic our country has faced in a century. Our health, our economy, our environment, our criminal justice system, our rights—and our democracy—are all on the ballot. I say this because this year, there are two campaigns: one posing the familiar choice for voters between candidates. And a second campaign is being waged – one against democracy and self-determination.
There is a steady stream of voter disinformation coming from the White House, because President Trump is currently losing the election. The only way he can stay in power is to cast doubt on the voting process and to convince people to not vote. We must respond by registering and turning out in record numbers and by demanding that every vote is counted. The United States has always held elections and upheld the results, even in times of great crisis. We held successful presidential elections amid the Civil War, the Great Depression, and both World Wars. Now it’s our turn to prove that nothing – not even this pandemic – will stand in the way of our democratic commitment to voting.
In our August elections here in Florida, we saw record turnout, as my fellow Floridians showed their determination to make their voices heard, whether by mail or in person. I was proud to see so many voters turn out for our primary elections, and for their support in my race to be the next State Senator for District 35, but we can’t take our feet off the gas now. We need to keep that momentum going through October and into November 3rd.
Many Floridians will start casting their ballots in just three weeks and recent polls are showing that our state will almost certainly come down to the razor-thin margins that have kept many of us up at night every four years. And whoever wins Florida is one giant step closer to winning the presidency. That’s why it’s so crucial that everyone vote, and VOTE EARLY, whether by mail or in person.
In Florida, we have the option and privilege to vote-by-mail or early vote in person. Vote by mail is a sensible, secure option and is considered the safest way to cast your ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic still posing a danger for the foreseeable future, voting by mail allows you to cast your ballot in advance and avoid the Election Day crowds at voting locations this year. Voting by mail is extremely secure and is a longstanding tradition in Florida. Plus, Florida now has ballot drop boxes available so that you can choose to return your vote by mail ballot in person, instead of mailing it back. Drop boxes will be located at many Supervisor of Elections offices and will be placed at every early voting site across the state during the early voting period. You can even track your ballot online to ensure that it has been received.
If you prefer to vote in-person, make sure to take advantage of Florida’s early voting period when the likelihood of crowded locations is lower. You can visit any early voting location in your county to cast your ballot in person 7am-7pm in the two weeks from October 19 to November 1 (In Broward and Miami-Dade counties, check your local SOE website for early voting dates and times that may differ by county).
By voting EARLY whether in person or by mail, we can do our part to help our Supervisors of Election and their hardworking staff to run a smooth, safe election, even in the midst of a pandemic. Because that’s what we do as proud Americans when we’re faced with tragedy, adversity, and injustice — we show up to help one another.
For democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all. Today it’s clear that politicians in power are trying to divide us––sowing doubts about this election and the right of every single eligible American to have our voices heard, no matter our color, income or zip code. We must respond by joining together, with people from all walks of life, to vote in record numbers and demand that every single vote is counted.
I believe wholeheartedly in the promise of our democracy. But democracy depends on participation. There is too much on the line this election to sit it out.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones represents Florida House District 101 and is running to represent State Senate District 35, which includes portions of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.