Orlando primary primer: How to vote in Tuesday's elections

Orlando primary primer: How to vote in Tuesday's elections

Florida's primary elections happen Tuesday, March 17, although early voting is still going on. In Orange and Osceola counties, you can visit any early voting center through Sunday. In Seminole and Lake counties, early voting ends Saturday.

To cast a vote in the Florida primary and factor in how this battleground state impacts the ascent of the eventual nominee, you must be registered as a member of a political party. The deadline for that was Feb. 18. On top of that, to be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen, a Florida resident, 18 years of age or older, and, in the words of the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' "How to Vote" page, "have your civil rights."

A person who has been convicted of a felony must have voting rights restored before registering to vote. Amendment 4 passed in Florida at the end of 2018 with 64 percent of the vote, restoring the franchise to 1.4 million ex-felons. But in May of last year, the legislature passed a bill supposedly implementing that amendment but restricting restoration to those who pay off restitution, fines and court fees – and the law has been bouncing around state and federal courts ever since.

Amid the uncertainty, some felons are unsure whether it's safe to register to vote. That kinda works out for Republicans, who don't typically fare well with the demographic groups that dominate Florida's incarcerated, namely Black and Hispanic people.

More uncertainty: There are reports that misleading language around voter eligibility led to people being turned away during previous Florida primaries. A photo and signature ID is required to vote, unless you don't have one, in which case you can still vote, but you'll have to fill out a provisional ballot. If you bring an ID that doesn't have a signature, officials may ask for more identification. Provisional ballots are submitted to local canvassing boards, who decide if the vote counts. Voters can follow up with documents to prove their eligibility.

Once in the voting booth – if you haven't been systemically disenfranchised or wrongly turned away, that is – Democratic primary voters will see a ballot with 16 candidates, all of those who hadn't pulled their name for contention before early December. Registered Republicans will also get a ballot that shows opponents running against Trump: two who have since dropped out, and Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, who says he doesn't feel a member of this party "as it's represented in Washington, D.C., right now."

Check your registration and voting location on your county's supervisor of elections website, and get your ass out there on Tuesday. Happy voting!

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