Voter Education and Registration Efforts Ramping Up for Election Season

by Raechel Garafalo, LWVSPA Voter Service Chair

In preparation for the August 30th primary election, the Leagues of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area and North Pinellas County are working to produce the League’s 2016 Pinellas County Voter Guide (the Guide). The target for publication of the Guide is the first week of August to coordinate with the distribution of Vote by Mail ballots.

The Guide will be totally web based (no downloading PDF’s), optimized for viewing on mobile devices, and will cover all contested federal, state, county and special fire district races. The LWVF will also be publishing a paper voter guide as in years past, that will cover US Congressional races, Florida Senate races, and the ballot amendments. This paper guide will be available for distribution in advance of the general election in November.

This year, as a result of the redrawn, renumbered Florida Senate districts, many voters’ precincts and polling places will change. So, be on the lookout for new Voter Registration cards. The League recommends that you confirm your voting status and update your signature as well as party affiliation before the August 1st Registration deadline.

There are several nonpartisan races in the August 30th election. However, if you want to vote in the partisan races on the ballot, and are currently registered as an NPA (no party affiliation), you will need to choose a party with which to affiliate (Republican or Democrat) and update your registration. Click here to check your status and update your registration.

On the subject of voter registration, our League is participating in a coordinated state effort called Project R.O.A.R. (Reach Out And Register) for which we’re planning a series of spring/summer voter registration activities. The goal of ROAR is to register, engage, and educate as many new voters as possible, especially in underserved communities and groups. We’re looking to plug into community events or organizational activities where we can make a difference.

Conducting a successful voter registration drive takes the work of a dedicated team of volunteers. Please contact me if you’re able to facilitate our participation in an event/activity or to learn about some of the other opportunities to get involved.

On a final note: I was one of six members of our local League to attend LWVF’s biennial Council of Leaders conference, What a Difference a Map Makes, in Orlando last week. At the end of Plenary Session II (part of a packed two-day agenda of workshops, caucuses, speaker sessions, and celebratory dinners), I put forth a Direction to the Board. I proposed that LWVF draft and send a letter to county supervisors of elections (SOEs) requesting that they send a signature update card in the mail to recurrent vote by mail voters who have not renewed their signatures in the last three years and that this become a regular practice. Some county SOE’s, like in Miami-Dade, already do this. I happily received notice this week that the state board has agreed to my proposal. If the practice of prompting signature updates is adopted statewide, we may see a decrease in challenged and invalidated ballots. Because, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!