Tips and tricks in ensuring your ballot is successfully cast
( Valerie Muzondi / Rowdy Magazine Art Director)
With Nov. 3rd just around the corner, most of us are more than aware what the result of the upcoming election may mean for the United States. We pushed through the initial debates, bombarded our Instagram followers with graphics and existentially contemplated the state of the nation, leaving us with one final frontier: voting.
Although voting is unarguably one of the most direct and effective ways to make our voices heard politically, Washington never has made it easy. Not to fear — with some quick research and preparation, you can make sure your ballot is not just cast, but counted.
First things first, decide how you’re voting. You have three options: vote-by-mail, in-person voting on election day and in-person early voting.
If you're voting by mail:
The deadline to request your mail-in-ballot is Saturday, Oct. 24th — if you've been putting it off, stop what you’re doing and check it off your to-do list.
Your ballot can be requested by one of three ways:
Fill out the online application on your county’s Supervisor of Elections office website
Send a written request by mail, fax or email
Call your county’s Supervisor of Elections
While it may seem simple, navigating the vote-by-mail ballot can be trickier than you expect. To ensure your vote counts, focus on properly filling out, signing and sending out your ballot.
When filling out your ballot, make sure to use either black or blue ink. (Helpful tip: black pen is the easiest color and medium for the tabulator to read.) And if 12 years of public school education wasn’t enough, bubble in each circle completely and avoid leaving stray marks outside the lines.
Almost, if not more, important than filling out the ballot itself is signing it correctly. Non-matching or nonexistent signatures collectively accounted for 47.5% of discarded or rejected absentee ballots in 2016. To avoid this mistake, try and ensure that your signature matches the one used either on your voter registration form or another legal document, such as your Driver’s License.
Lastly, send your ballot out on time. When sealing your mail-in-ballot for shipping, make sure you place the completed ballot within the provided secrecy sleeve. While Florida accepts naked ballots, it’s still best to follow the given instructions as closely as possible.
And remember: if you’re voting by mail, election day is closer than you may think. Your ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3rd. Unlike other states, Florida does not take postmarks into account, so mail out your ballot at least 10-14 days before election day. You can also track your ballot to make sure it arrives safely!
If you’re voting in-person:
Have a plan. Whether you’re voting on election day or ahead of time, casting your ballot in person takes more than just plugging the address of your polling station into GPS.
First (and most importantly), keep in mind that there’s still a pandemic. As much as I’m sure we all wish it would, COVID-19 doesn’t care about the political deterioration of our nation — so vote safely.
Try to avoid large crowds by voting during off-peak hours (either mid-morning on election day or during the early voting period), minimize the number of people in line by leaving any guests at home, and (if it hasn’t been said enough) wear your f*cking mask. Be both a responsible citizen and a good person by staying conscientious, sanitizing anything you may come in contact with and bringing your own black pen if possible.
Be prepared to stand in line for excessive amounts of time! At the end of the day, there may not be much you can do to avoid long lines on election day, so arrive at the polls armed with lots of water and snacks.
If you're voting in-person early:
It's already started! Early voting began on Monday, Oct. 19th and will continue until Sunday, Nov 1st. Once again, make sure to double-check the location of your polling place.
If you're voting in-person on Election Day:
I’m sure the date Nov. 3rd is already seared into your memory (and maybe some of your nightmares). But beyond this, making sure you know your polling location ahead of time is crucial. This is listed on your voter registration card, or you can search it up online.
And finally, resist the urge to take a selfie with your ballot — whether at the polls or with your mail-in-ballot. Ballot photos are illegal in the state of Florida, making it a simple way to accidentally invalidate your vote. Stick to an after-voting photoshoot with your sticker — just as Instagram-worthy, but less illegal.
Picking a candidate is only the first hurdle to successfully casting your ballot, but with a little dedication and a bit of research, we can all be confident that we’ve made our votes count.
Veronica Nocera is a Staff Writer at Rowdy Magazine. Her simple pleasures include hoarding stationary, rewatching 90s rom coms, and romanticizing the lives of 20th century female authors. She's intensely passionate about the power of language, social justice, and the overlap between past and present. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!