New Hampshire’s state slogan is “Live Free or Die.” What does this have to do with the mid-term elections and the state of Florida?
I used New Hampshire as my example to illustrate the power of the vote. Without an educated and informed populace who are active in the political process, this country would be at a greater standstill than it is today.
People with disabilities represent an underappreciated population of voters. Unfortunately, they are often unsure about how to participate in the political process. It is the job of self-advocates like myself and others to let our voices be heard.
The mid-term elections are fast-approaching. The primaries in Florida are August 28. After the primaries, the general election will be held November 6. While the general election is crucial, the first step is to be an active and informed voter in the primaries. The deadline to register to vote in the primaries is July 30. Here is some information on registering to vote.
It’s important to understand that Florida is a closed primary state. That means you can only vote in the primary for candidates matching your registered party affiliation. If you are registered as a No Party Affiliate (NPA), you might not have anything to vote for unless there are local elections or issue questions not connected to a political party. It is important to know who you want to vote for in the primary, with enough time to change your party affiliation, if necessary. You can learn more about the candidates running in your district here.
Knowing the deadlines is important but more frequently for people with disabilities, the desire to participate is greater than their access to the polls. One way to streamline the voting process is to vote by mail, also known as absentee ballot.
Using the vote by mail option has many advantages. First, when using this option, the ballot will be delivered directly to your home. If you can’t make it to the polls, you can fill out your ballot and send it back. Many counties pay for return postage. Seeing the ballot ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to take your time to fully research the candidates, issues, and amendments that appear on the ballot. Additionally, it has the advantage of providing privacy and comfort without risking a long line in the rain, or a missed ride to the polls. You can learn all about vote by mail here.
There are other options available to people with disabilities to help them cast their vote. You can bring personal help to assist you with the ballot and sign a declaration to that effect. Or you could choose to vote early to avoid long lines and crowded polling stations. If you choose to vote in person, don’t forget to schedule your transportation in plenty of time to get to the polls. You can find more information about accessible voting here.
It is our hope at Florida Self Advocacy Central that this information is extremely useful.
As the election cycle progresses, we will be profiling candidates in Florida who returned a questionnaire we sent them. Remember – your voice matters. Make sure to use it!