One of my heroes passed this year. John Lewis, the incredible civil rights activist and Congressman from Georgia was a fierce advocate of voting and the necessity of voting. In July of 2016, he said, “The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument in a democratic society. We must use it.”
That may seem melodramatic, but that’s because we’ve had the right to vote. I’ve never lived in a world where I had to fight for my right to vote. John Lewis and all the Civil Rights Activists throughout history did that for us. Now we get to use that right.
I know that voting can be intimidating because it seems like there are so many bureaucratic hoops to jump through, but I promise, it’s so much easier than you think. Follow this simple voter guide and you’ll be ready to hit the polls in no time!
In order to vote in Hillsborough County, there are a couple of things that you need to do.
Step 1: Register to Vote. (If you are registered to vote, skip to Step 2)
In order to vote in the State of Florida, you must be a US citizen and a legal resident of Florida in the county you wish to cast your vote.
You must be 18 years old to vote, but you can pre-register at 16 if you want! I remember going to the DMV and when they asked me which party I wanted to register as, I said, “Well, there are only two right?” They told me I should wait to register. Look how far I’ve come.
Returning citizens (people who have felony convictions) and individuals who have been deemed “mentally incompetent” must have their civil rights restored before they can cast their vote.
There are plenty of ways to register in Hillsborogh County. You can ALWAYS register to vote online at the Department of State website.
If you prefer to stay offline, don’t worry. There are plenty of other options. You can register to vote at the DMV or the Local Board of Elections. Make sure you call ahead of time to see if they have any appointments available. Because of COVID, many locations require an appointment. You can also register to vote at any Hillsborough County Library!
In order to register, you will need to provide a current Florida Driver’s License or Florida ID card. If you don’t have either of these Florida issued documents, you will need to provide the last four digits of your Social Security number.
From Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections:
“Your signature may change over time, so make sure we have your current signature on file. When you sign a Vote By Mail ballot envelope or candidate and initiative petitions, we’ll match your signature to
the signatures we have on file for you. You can use an online voter registration application to update your information, and it will add the signature from your Driver License or Florida ID to your voter
record. Or you can use a Florida Voter Registration Application to update your signature or identifying mark. Turn your update in at
any Voter Registration Agency or mail it to Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, 2514 N. Falkenburg Rd., Tampa, FL 33619.”
Keep in mind you must register at least 29 days before the election. For the November 3rd Election, you must register to vote by October 5th.
Early Voting is from October 24, 2020-October 31, 2020
Step 2: Check Your Voter Registration
EVERYONE, and I cannot stress this enough, SHOULD CHECK THEIR REGISTRATION.
“I registered as soon as I turned 18. I know I’m registered” – Check it
“I’ve voted in every election since Kennedy” – Check it
“I voted in 2018. I’m good”—You don’t know that! CHECK IT.
The reason I’m screaming at you through this keyboard is not just because I’m a drama queen but also because Florida has put nearly 300,000 registered voters who voted in 2016 or later on “inactive lists,” which means they could be purged from the rolls and unable to vote in 2020. It’s crucial that you keep an eye on your voter registration status. If you notice something is off now, you still have time to get it fixed so that you can vote in 2020. My little sister was unable to vote in the 2018 Primary because she was registered as an Independent. She was registered for a party, but somehow that got switched. We updated it after the primary and then she was able to vote in the general election. Please, please, please, check your voter registration.
Step 3: Request a Vote by Mail Ballot
Voting in the middle of a pandemic may seem scary to some and may be impossible to others. If you don’t want to go to the polls or if you can’t go to the polls because you or a family member is high risk, vote by mail is the safest way to go.
Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get your ballot in! The US Postal Service is working hard, but I would still recommend mailing back your ballot as soon as you can.
Note: Some counties pay for the return postage on the ballots. Make sure to check the upper right hand corner of the envelope to determine if you need to add postage.
REMOTE BALLOT DROP-OFF LOCATIONS
Between October 19, 2020 – November 1, 2020, from 7am- 7pm, you can drop off your ballot at any of these remote drop-off ballot locations.
Note: On November 2 and 3, you can only drop off at these 4 locations.
Fred B Karl County Center 601 E Kennedy Blvd, Tampa
Northwest Elections Office 4575 Gunn Hwy, Tampa
Robert L Gilder Elections Service Center 2514 N Falkenburg Rd, Tampa
Southeast Elections Office 10020 S US Hwy 301, Riverview
Or Early Voting
If you are registered already and wish to vote in person ahead of November 3, 2020 at a polling place instead of using a mail in ballot, early voting is from October 24, 2020 – October 31, 2020. You can vote early in person at these locations between 7am – 7pm, Monday through Sunday. There is also a list of what you will need to bring. Make sure you have your valid photo ID with a signature on it. Make sure your signature matches the signature that the government has on file.
Want someone else to deliver your mail in ballot? Any person can collect and return other voters’ voted absentee ballots to the Supervisor of Elections.
Step 4: Make sure your vote counted!
The best part about vote-by-mail is that you can verify your ballot was received! Your Supervisor of Elections has a “Track Your Ballot” tool on their website. You can know when exactly when your ballot is received and counted.
If your ballot shows that it wasn’t counted, there are fixes! A Supervisor of Elections is required to notify a voter as soon as it is practical if a voter’s signature is missing or does not match the one on record. You can also
call to check the status. Once you learn about the missing or mismatched signature, you can complete and return a “Vote-by-Mail Ballot Cure” Affidavit with a copy of identification. The deadline to submit the form and the ID is no later than 5 p.m. (local time) on the 2nd day after an
Visit Vote Hillsborough for all the information any local voter would need ahead of the 2020 elections.