By Susana Darwin and Jack Courtier, Contributors
PINELLAS COUNTY — Only 36 percent of eligible Pinellas County voters cast ballots in the March 2020 Presidential Preference Primary: 200,425 voters out of 544,223 registered.
Three times as many people voted by mail in March as voted in person: 145,292 mailed in their ballots, and 47,359 people voted in person at the polls. Fewer than four percent went to early polling stations to vote early.
Less than 60 percent of Black voters sent in vote-by-mail ballots and Black voters were almost twice as likely to vote in person than white voters.
By contrast, almost 75 percent of white voters cast vote-by-mail ballots in March, and 22 percent voted in person.
The ritual of going to a polling place and casting a ballot is all the more precious to those of us who have had to fight and die to win the right to vote, but COVID-19 changes everything.
There are many reasons to find out about voting by mail:
- If you sign up to vote by mail, you won’t miss an election because of COVID-19 or any other unexpected event.
- If you vote by mail, you can cast your ballot even if you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day.
- When you sign up to vote by mail, you automatically receive your ballot, so there’s no need to keep track of dates.
- You can study the ballot in your own time and look into candidates and issues that are important to you.
- You can vote on your schedule and not feel rushed.
- You don’t have to stand in line.
- You can mail your ballot (remember to sign it and add postage!) or drop it off at a
Supervisor of Elections Office. They have a special bin for mail ballots, and you can get an “I voted” sticker.
- You can check online to make sure that your mail ballot has been received at VotePinellas.com. If the online system shows that your ballot was received, that means that the Supervisor of Elections staff has received your ballot and checked your signature. If the Supervisor’s staff finds a problem with your ballot, they will contact you by phone, email and/or letter.
- Florida statutes allow mail ballots to be opened and processed beginning 22 days before the election. Mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Election Day in any Elections Office.
***PLEASE NOTE: Postal delivery service has changed. Voters are advised to allow at least ONE WEEK for their ballot to be returned by mail to the Supervisor of Elections office.***
Pinellas has the best record in Florida for vote by mail. A recent ACLU study cited the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office as a model of best practices.
Pinellas had the lowest rejection rate of all 67 counties (0.11 percent in 2017) for mail ballots, and the Supervisor’s staff went to great lengths to help voters correct mismatched signatures and other problems.
We suspect what the negative messages out there about voting by mail are really about.
But in the Aug. 18 election, the sheriff, school board members, the tax assessor, and other elected officials who have direct impact on our day-to-day lives are ALL on the ballot.
What better way to put the people who don’t want us to vote in their place than by getting out and voting? Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from voting. Find out about voting by mail today.
Request your mail ballot from the Supervisor of Elections website online at votepinellas.com/VoteByMail, or by calling 727-464-VOTE (8683).
Don’t delay! The Aug. 18 Primary Election is less than a month away.
|Voting by mail: Myth vs. Reality|
|“I need a reason to vote by mail.”||No reason is required for a mail ballot. Florida changed the name from “absentee ballot” to “vote-by-mail” ballot in 2016. They mean the same thing.|
|“I have to mail my ballot.”||You can drop off your ballot at the Supervisor of Elections Office up to 7 p.m. on Election Day. NOTE: It is not enough to have it postmarked by Election Day. It must be RECEIVED by Election Day.|
|“I have to request a mail ballot early.”||You must request that a ballot BE MAILED to you at least 10 days before an election. But you can PICK UP a mail ballot as late as the day before an election.|
|“My mail ballot will not be counted.”||Pinellas has the best record in Florida. In a 2017 study, Pinellas had the lowest rejection rate for mail ballots of all 67 counties (0.11%).|
Did you know? Five states: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington currently conduct all their elections entirely by mail.
Susana Darwin is a filmmaker and organizer with the Community Remembrance Project Coalition (Pinellasremembers.org), GOTV Pinellas, and Indivisible FL-13.
Jack Courtier is an environmental scientist and activist with GOTV Pinellas.