Florida’s 2020 Primary Election is now about a month away, set for Tuesday, August 18. To help Escambia and Santa Rosa county voters prepare, the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area has launched its non-partisan online election resource, VOTE411.org.
VOTE411.org was launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund in 2006.
“So, VOTE411, it is web based. You do have to log in on a device and what it allows you to do is essentially it’s your one-stop shop for election information,” said Haley Richards, a member of the local League chapter, who coordinated the local VOTE411 project.
She says it’s a place where you can search certain election dates and deadlines, and check your voter registration status, particularly in Florida, which is a closed primary state.
“And, if you want to vote in certain races, if it’s a closed primary then you have to be either registered Republican, registered Democrat and that you can change, but there are deadlines related to that,” Richards explained.
The first important date to mark is the deadline to register to vote or change party affiliation, which is Monday, July 20.
Once voter eligibility is secured, individuals can begin to educate themselves about candidates in the races on their individual ballots.
“VOTE411 has the capability to use your address and then it will pull up candidates by party affiliation if it’s applicable,” said Richards, pointing to the fact that some races like school board are non-partisan and some are Universal primaries, meaning all the candidates in a particular race are from a single party and will be decided in the primary.
“So, it’s tailored to you and where you live and the districts, if those apply.”
From there, voters can read about the seat being sought, find biographical information about the candidates and see how they responded to numerous questions from the League.
“That way voters can kind of compare those candidates that are seeking either re-election or candidates that are seeking the positions so they compare where they stand on certain issues that affect them at the local level, state and federal level, as well,” she said.
Escambia and Santa Rosa county voters using the online resource will be able to see who’s running for Congress, Florida House of Representatives, county commission, and school board. Also, several seats on the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) are featured on the primary ballot in Escambia County.
“So, these are people that make decisions that will affect your life, so you want to see where they stand, since they’re asking for your vote,” Richards added.
In some races, such as the Universal primaries for Santa Rosa County Commission District 5 and Santa Rosa School Superintendent, a full candidate-comparison is available.
In other races, the candidate response is spotty or non-existent. But, Richards says there is still time and she expects more completed questions to be submitted in the coming weeks.
“The great thing about this on the candidate side is we just send them a link to a survey,” she said. “They just complete it themselves and when it comes back, we just hit a couple of buttons on the back end of the system and then it publishes it within about an hour or so, when the site updates.”
Richards acknowledged that the current coronavirus pandemic has made the League’s voter service effort more challenging in 2020. She says the organization is grateful to have the online VOTE411.org project and a few other outlets for disseminating voter information that don’t require in-person interaction.
“We are on social media, so we still put out things. We’re still putting out our newsletter, so if you’re on the newsletter list you could still receive that. We still have partnered with WSRE and worked with them on putting together the Rally 2020 presentation for the August Primary. So, that’s coming out in July.”
WSRE’s Rally 2020 candidate forum will be presented on July 30 and 31 at 8 p.m.
A reminder, individuals planning to vote in the Aug. 18 Primary must be registered to vote by this Monday, July 20.
To find out about the races and candidates on your ballot in Escambia, Santa Rosa - or wherever you live, go online to VOTE411.org.