Written by: Natalia Brown

It’s election season! This is a time to confidently exercise the right to use our voices and votes to elect leaders that will harness political power to meet the needs of our communities.

The electoral process is complex, so I’m going to break down the upcoming phases of this election season to make your role as clear as possible. Even for those of us who are seasoned voters, this election year has come with unprecedented obstacles and shifted priorities that may affect how many of us cast our ballots in the Fall. You’re already taking the right steps by checking out this blog post and will be well on your way to effective civic engagement with some of the tips and resources I’ll share throughout!

First things first, let’s run through the timeline.

August 18th, 2020 is the primary election date for the state of Florida. In simple terms, you can consider this the “first round” that narrows the field of candidates for offices specific to your district. For the primary election, it is in your best interest to have a declared political party in your voter registration. This is because Florida is a closed primary state where only members of political parties get to vote in the partisan races, such as for congressional seats. There are also very important non-partisan races that we vote on in the primaries, such as county judges or mayor.

Throughout Miami-Dade County, ballots will differ based on the district that you are a registered resident of. You may see candidates for county mayor, county commissioners, school board member seats, state attorney, property appraiser, state legislators, county judges, and party committee persons (among others).

You can register for the first time or update an existing registration any time before the deadline: July 20th, 2020.

November 3rd, 2020 is the general election for all US states. In similar simple terms, you can consider this the “final round” in which voters make their final choice from the party nominees and independent candidates running for the presidency and other offices specific to your district.

You can register for the first time or update an existing registration any time before the deadline: October 5th, 2020.

As early as you can in the election season, it’s important to (1) if you are a first time voter, register or (2) if you have voted in the past, verify and update your registration. If you will be living at a different address during the different elections, it will be especially important to update your registration before the deadlines.

To minimize community spread of COVID-19 and forego in-person voter suppression obstacles, all Florida voters can request to vote by mail in all the upcoming elections. Fortunately, requesting to vote from home with an absentee ballot does not require an excuse in the vast majority of states.

All Florida residents can successfully request a vote-by-mail ballot by following these 3 simple steps:

  1. Visit https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/supervisors/
  2. Select your county for the Supervisors of Elections’ contact info.
  3. Request a vote-by-mail ballot via the application on their website; or by email, fax, mail, telephone call, or in-person meeting.

It is recommended that you do this at least 10 days before the date of the election. For example, you would be on the right track if you’ve requested a mail-in ballot before August 8th for the primary election on August 18th. This is because you want to be mindful of delays between the time the request is received, ballot is mailed to you, completed, and returned. If you are reading this before August 8th, I strongly encourage you to take action sooner rather than later!

Once you receive a vote-by mail ballot, you will complete it (just as you would in-person) according to the included instructions. It is very important that you follow the instructions for completing, packaging, mailing or turning in your ballot to make sure it is received in time and can be counted. There will be clear instructions on the ballot itself and in the other materials included in the envelope, and there are also additional resources to help you along the way from the county.

Mail-in ballots must be returned (1) by mail via USPS or (2) in person at a secure drop box.

If you choose to mail your ballot, it may be returned via the United States Postal Service and must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Postage is paid for you, so no stamp is required. Once mailed out, you can also track the status of your ballot online!

If you choose to submit it in-person, please respect the measures enforced at your polling place to minimize community spread of COVID-19. This will likely include wearing a face covering, using hand washing stations, and maintaining 6-feet of distance between yourself and other community members. You can drop off the ballot in a secure drop box at an Early Voting location or the Stephen P. Clark Center Voter Information Center (VIC) during their open hours, or at the Miami-Dade Elections Department no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Whether you choose to vote-by-mail or submit your ballot in-person, it is recommended that you make use of the Early Voting window to avoid crowds or lines for all elections. Click here for updated access to early voting locations and schedules.

For answers to additional questions regarding the vote-by-mail process, reference this resource.

If you chose to vote in-person, you will be required to bring a form of photo ID that includes your name, photo, and signature such as a valid driver’s license. If you are unable to provide that, reference page 11 of this resource for alternatives.

Before election day, it is recommended that you learn about the positions and candidates that you’ll be voting on. Miami-Dade County has an excellent resource that generates a custom sample ballot, based on your address, so that you can get a sense of exactly what you’ll be asked at the polling place.

Some additional resources that may be useful for you during election season are linked below. If you have any questions about the electoral process at all, do not hesitate to reach out to a local civic engagement organization or county officials to ensure that you are able to effectively participate in this important process.

A collaboratively-developed resource on the candidates and their platforms, as well as this collection of questionnaire responses organized by issues and candidates for the primary elections in Miami-Dade County.

Voter Help and Election Protection Hotlines:

English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)

Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)

Arabic: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)

Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urudu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, and Vietnamese: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)

Information that residents of any state may find useful on: new registration, registration status, vote-by-mail and absentee ballots, early voting periods, election dates and reminders, voting rights, in-person voting at polling places, voting in the age of COVID-19, and completing the 2020 census.