For once, Florida was able to model a smooth election – and other states could take a note from our handbook

click to enlarge Adult and kid stickers for voting in Brevard County's 2020 Presidential Preference Primaries. - Photo by Lillian M. Hernández Caraballo
Photo by Lillian M. Hernández Caraballo
Adult and kid stickers for voting in Brevard County's 2020 Presidential Preference Primaries.
For a state that’s infamous for fucking up elections, Florida actually managed to hold an exemplary election day this year – amid a coronavirus outbreak, no less.

Although, for the most part, Orange County has had clean elections, and was likely not one of the two hacked counties in the 2018 elections, the Sunshine State as a whole still has plenty of other stories to document its incompetence to carry out normal and fair elections.

But this primary was not one of them.

While other states, like Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio, canceled their primaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Floridians turned out in record numbers to vote for the 2020 presidential preference primaries.

“As of last night, 1,997,127 Florida voters had cast ballots by early voting and vote-by-mail,” Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said in a press conference Tuesday morning. “We are fortunate in Florida to have numerous options to cast our votes securely and safely.”

Those early and remote votes ended up exceeding 2 million and, combined with another 3 million on election day, the bold decision to stay open for elections in Florida paid off with a turnout of over 5 million voters.

The Florida Department of State said in a statement Friday that they had been in touch with health authorities to determine the best ways to hold elections while minimizing risks.

"The Florida Department of State has provided guidance and information to all Supervisor of Elections about preparing for and mitigating any type of exposure to COVID-19 at polling locations," Lee said.

Arizona and Illinois also bit the bullet and chose to hold their primaries on Tuesday.

Florida state authorities decided that providing availability to early and remote voting alternatives, would decrease the lines and crowds on election day. And that having residents momentarily walk in and out of a sanitized building posed very little risk to the communities.

UCF student Alina Alvarez said that her precinct at the University Unitarian Universalist Society on campus was practically empty when she showed up at 11 a.m.

"When I went in with my friends, we were the only people there," Alvarez said. "I wasn't worried about exposure."

She said the campus precinct practiced safety precautions by asking students where they had been during spring break.

Alvarez, who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is in her sophomore year of both psychology and creative writing majors. She said that she, like many in the state, was driven to make her vote a priority.

"I don't think I was afraid because I was so focused on voting," Alvarez said.

In Brevard County, Precinct 510 had cleaners and sanitizers out and being regularly used. The poll workers even had a routine worked out to run the line in a way that kept voters a few feet away from one another.

"I've already disinfected all these pens here in this box, and this box is to disinfect the ones that people drop off on their way out," said one of the elderly women volunteering at the Senior Center to help run the elections. "Rotation is important. I'm not trying to get sick either."

In the end, the Florida Department of State acted and proved to be organized and adaptable, even providing forms so that voters concerned about the virus could designate a trusted individual to pick up a take-home ballot for them.

There were no excuses made, and the sacred right to vote was honored, as the high voter turnout proves. This is important, as Florida is one of the most important and decisive states in the country.

As is Ohio: Seeing how smoothly Florida elections went pissed off some of our distant neighbors across the United States.

"They just had to organize," said Marisabel Huertas, a chef who resides in Ohio. "They're just afraid of change here."

Huertas says that the political approach in Ohio displays a conformist attitude and that a lot of the people suffer a complex of being unimportant "town folk."

"They don't fight for their rights and allow things to just happen to them," Huertas said. "They don't try to get informed and take advantage of education."

A Michigan voter, Noah Adam Lipson, who travels between two residences for work and comes to Florida often to see his family, says he thinks the entire voting process should be reformed.

A technicality in the system kept Lipson from being able to cast his vote for the first time this year. He says he thinks the people of Ohio are ridiculous for giving up their opportunity to impact the election.

"Ohio is dumber than I'd ever thought prior to today," Lipson said when he began seeing reports about the success of Florida elections. "They could’ve taken the same measures to ensure voting was safe and clean from this pandemic."

Lipson makes the argument that states should be keeping up with changing times. Technology is available to make voting safe and easy for everyone, and that other alternatives merely suppress the vote.

"I feel that they need to change the process of getting an absentee ballot, and to to allow last-minute applications and online submissions," Lipson said. "Sometimes we cannot give ample notice to request one, and changes can occur at any time."

Lipson may not be wrong. He says that tampering with heavy election states like Ohio not only isn’t fair but could continue to further undermine American democracy, setting a precedent for future situations.

"The ripple effect that it has on the country and their decision-making moving forward can’t even be measured," Lipson said.

In Louisiana other voters are disappointed as well. Tim Folse, who builds Coast Guard boats, said Louisiana may be handling the virus with a little more panic than necessary.

"Louisiana is going nuts over corona, man," Folse said.

Folse said they are likely to close the shipyard where he works for weeks and he is looking for work in Florida.

Amid national trouble, for once, Florida wasn't caught in the mess. For once, we managed to actually look like a state. Perhaps this is the beginning of a chance to be known as something other than Mickey's house or America's dong.

The rush of the swamp waters sprays high, as Florida Man rides his gator into the setting Sun, soaring through the palm trees, higher than the I-4 Eyesore, wearing coronavirus as a floating crown, and into new horizons of competence and national dignity because we voted.

You go, Florida Man. Sky's the limit now.

— Due to rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Central Florida events have been postponed or canceled. Orlando's restaurants, venues and hospitality workers could use your support right now. Order takeout, buy gift cards and tip generously – but also call ahead to venues to make sure an event is still happening. As always, follow CDC guidelines on staying safe.
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