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Voter Registration Events Aimed At Youngest And Oldest Voters

Sandra Averhart

A federal court has issued an order extending Florida’s voter registration deadline until Wednesday. That gives state residents one extra day to register to vote in the November 8th General Election.

Across the region, election officials have conducted numerous voter registration events in the past few weeks. Two such events on Friday reached out the youngest and oldest members of Escambia County’s electorate.

The first voter outreach was held at University Pines Senior Living Community in Pensacola.

The sound of bells throughout the complex alerts residents to listen for announcements regarding morning activities. On this morning, there’s a book sale, hearing screenings and aid services, and a doggy wash.

“Voters come on down, you have about 15 more minutes,” advises Kathleen Matthews, the facility’s enrichment coordinator at the facility, referencing the voter registration table set up by the Escambia Supervisor of Elections Office in the atrium. Matthews says it’s an important service they provide for residents at the facility, which is also a polling location.

“They’re (residents) very into world news, community news,” said Matthews. “They take their voting rights/privileges seriously and they want to make sure they can vote here; all they have to do is walk downstairs.”

Matthews says about a half dozen residents stopped by the table to check their registration status. One of them was 94-year-old Grace Henderson, who recently moved into the facility from Milton and needed a change of address.

“Now we don’t have to worry about getting transportation to someplace, where we don’t know the area,” said Henderson, who says she’s still a very active voter. “Well, I think it’s very important that we cast a vote, but sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it,” she added with a chuckle.

Worth it or not, Mrs. Henderson is now ready for Election Day. And, by the end of this particular day, students at West Florida High School and George Stone Technical Center will be ready, too.

Jessica Eidenier is a student at George Stone Technical Center studying to become an Administrative Office Specialist. “I’m 27 and it’s my first year to vote. I’ve never registered and this year I’m going to,” she said.

Credit Sandra Averhart
George Stone student Jessica Eidenier, 27, waits to register to vote for the first time.

Eidenier, who has a five-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, arrived early for the registration event at George Stone. She talked about jobs, the economy and health care as issues important to her.

And, when asked why now, she says she’s been drawn in by this year’s unusual presidential campaign.

“Because of all that’s going on, all the candidates, all the debating, I figure if I put in for my vote, then my voice would count too to get who I want,” said Eidenier, who proclaimed that she wasn’t really moved to participate in the elections before now.

Just across the campus, elections volunteers also were set up near the West Florida High cafeteria.

Jason Young, with the Supervisor of Elections Office, was one of the people greeting interested students during their lunch break...

Credit Sandra Averhart
Jason Young, with the Escambia Supervisor of Elections Office, registers young voters at West Florida High School.

“We do get a good response from the students,” said Young. “They’re very interested in learning what goes on in an election. They want to put their name in the hat to try and register and be heard.”

“So, we’re covering youngest to oldest all on the same day,” said Sonya Daniel, who serves as Deputy Supervisor of Elections for Escambia County. She was joined by Training and Outreach coordinator Brandy Zeigler at the voter registration event at University Pines earlier in the day.

“We do everything from community events, to businesses that want to make sure their employees are ready to go, to nursing homes, assisted living, just about anywhere we’re invited,” Daniel said.

The elections office in Escambia County has been busy in these final weeks, scheduling 19 different voter registration events just in the month of September.

Daniel says voter registration has never been easier, adding that 80 percent of the eligible population in Escambia is already registered to vote. But, she points out that voter registration is really a year round effort for the Supervisor of Elections Office and their continued efforts are needed.

“We live in a military community, a lot of people moving in and moving out, so there’s a lot of transition” said Daniel. “We’re a college town; we have three colleges in town. That brings a lot of people in and some people stay. So with that constant turnover, we have to be constantly be doing voter registration.”

Their work is paying off, with voter registration in Escambia County recently topping 206,000, the highest total ever in the county’s history.

For those still needing to get registered, taking care of it in person is best at this late date.  On this Tuesday, the original registration deadline, local Supervisor of Elections offices are extending their hours of operation.  Escambia will be open  from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Santa Rosa hours are 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.; and Okaloosa will be open from 8 a.m to 10 p.m. The deadline is now Wednesday, October 12 at 5 p.m.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.