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Florida Voter Registraton Nearing Close

Sandra Averhart, WUWF Public Media

Time is running out to register to vote in the November 6 General Election. The deadline in Florida is this Tuesday, October 9.

With just one day to go, the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office set up a table during the lunch hour Monday in the University of West Florida Commons.

Calling out to those walking by is Benjamin Kinnard. The 19-year-old political science major interned at the elections office over the summer and helped to organize this event on behalf of his club, the College Democrats. 

Credit Sandra Averhart, WUWF Public Media
Benjamin Kinnard, of College Democrats, helped to organize the voter drive with the Escambia Supervisor of Elections office. He's with SOE staffers Brittany Young and Brandi Ziglar.

“Usually we get somewhere in the high single-digits on registrants,” he said. “Tuesday we got about seven people registered to vote and that was more of an informal setting. So, on a good day, we can definitely get upwards of 12 people to vote, and in a state like Florida that can really mean a lot.”

The good news is that most of the students coming through the Commons registered to vote previously. But, a few needed to take advantage of the convenient opportunity, including 18-year-old biology student Amanda MacFarland and 20-year-old nursing major Andrew Harper.

“It is pretty exciting because I want to be able to make a difference and I know voting is gonna be able to do that, instead of just posting on Instagram or Facebook or doing something that I know won’t do anything,” she said. “I can actually put my vote out there.”

"I think it’s important to put your opinion out there because you don’t have a voice in changing anything or you know having any say at what happens, so I think that’s pretty important,” added Harper.

Sinclair Forbes and Quarius Hodges are engaged in voter registration efforts on behalf of their fraternity brother and NAACP president Rodney Jones. 

Credit Sandra Averhart, WUWF Public Media
Rodney Jones, president of the Pensacola Branch of the NAACP, registers voters at the Soul Bowl last weekend.

"We’re out here because we knew that this game was going to take place and there would be a lot of untapped voters out here or potential voters,” said Jones. “So we decided we wanted to come out here and participate in this event as an agency that was registering individuals to vote.”

Jones says NAACP members have done just about everything to get people registered to vote; visiting schools, conducting phone banks, and canvassing, primarily in Escambia County’s District 3, a district with a large concentration of African American voters that had low voter participation and turnout in the last election.

But, the most effective voter registration tool employed by the NAACP and other organizations is The Hustle App.

We were trained in how to use this app, how many people we can reach with this app,” said Jones. “In fact, it says we can reach about 300 people in 10 minutes with this app; finding out whether they have registered, or not registered, can we register them, have they participated or when (was) the last time they participated in the voter process, and things like, which really, I think was a real rocket ship to where we’re trying to go.”

And, that’s reaching as many potential voters as possible before the books close. 

Credit Sandra Averhart, WUWF Public Media
NAACP local chapter Vice President Vin Durant fills out voter registration paperwork last weekend at the Soul Bowl.

When making his voter registration pitch, Jones says he focuses on being real and showing individuals the connection between voting and their everyday life.

"Many say it doesn’t affect me, I don’t have a dog in this fight…but it does affect their everyday life because the people we put into office, they make the policy and procedures that affect us,” he said.

“So, I’d say, ‘Ma’am, you have a son in prison currently, and when he gets out, he won’t get his rights restored. He’ll have to go through this long drawn out process and then still we don’t know if he can do it. But, Amendment 4, ma’am, really will help him get his rights back.’”

The NAACP is one of a long list of authorized third-party organizations able to collect completed voter registration applications to be submitted to local elections offices.

We recognize that it’s a very important activity, and so we try to encourage those groups as best we can to do voter registration,” said Sonya Daniel, deputy supervisor of elections in Escambia County.

Credit Sandra Averhart, WUWF Public Media
Amanda MacFarland, biology study from Navarre, also stopped to register.

She says, it’s a benefit to the elections staff — and to the new voter — when all the information gathered is accurate and complete.

(So that) when we process that application we’re able to go completely through the process and that voter gets their voter registration card with their precinct location for election day,” she added.

If individuals still need to register or update their registration information, there’s no time to waste.

Individuals can stop by their local supervisor of elections offices or go on their websites to check their registration status. They can register at their local driver’s license office. And, for the past year, online voting has been available through a link to the Florida Department of State. Daniel says if you really want to vote, there’s really no excuse.

Voter registration is easier than ever…especially with that online voter registration tool,” she said. “If you have a license, you can update sitting in your living room watching football.”

Registration closes on this Tuesday. The Escambia Supervisor of Elections office is extending office hours until 7 p.m., Santa Rosa will extend until 6 p.m., and Okaloosa until 8 p.m. Online voting must be complete by 11:59 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.