Central Florida Votes: My Election Day 2016 Experience

The day is finally here, and like a kid at Christmas, most of us couldn’t be more excited to cast our ballots and be COMPLETELY DONE with the 2016 Election!

The last year and a half has been exhausting in many ways. Between having to decide between two candidates I either don’t like 0r trust in the Presidential election, to the barrage of mudslinging in our local elections… oy!

I certainly don’t mind putting in the work to research each candidate in order to make an informed vote at the polls, but wading through all the garbage? No thanks.

What I am done with are the crazy commercial spots, sponsored posts, wasteful mailers which immediately go from my mailbox to the trash, and repetitive robocalls at home, the flood of political text messages and emails asking for donations – DONE.

The Bright Side is…

People are talking about and debating civics! They’re getting involved in their own communities in record numbers, making the effort to research both National and Local candidates, and sharing easy-to-use research tools with everyone!

People who barely voted in the past are now phonebanking for the candidate they support. Citizens are not just inheriting their political choices from family, friends, or social circles but they’re actually owning them! We are indeed living in changing times, and that alone is something to get excited about, nevermind the divisive trash.

Vote! Please, vote!

Regardless of who you’re voting for, I have to admit I’m incredibly excited, not to mention encouraged, to see so many people across the state are getting out there to vote in this year’s 2016 General Election.

Today, lines could be shorter in your polling place, they could be A LOT longer. Bring your ID and some patience when voting today.

Before You Leave Home or Work…

Check your voter status and locate your precinct. Be aware of your rights and responsibilities. Help a friend or neighbor vote by carpooling. Make sure your address is correct (This can be changed over the phone in Orange County by calling 407-836-2070). Call the Florida Voter Assistance Hotline at 1-866-308-6739 for any other questions you may not be able to find answers to, or locate your local Supervisor of Elections Office here [Link].

Top 5 Voting Tips

  1. 1. Always have your valid photo ID (with signature) in hand. If you don’t have a valid photo ID, ask for a provisional ballot.
  2. 2. Utilize your sample ballot for a faster time at the polls.
  3. 3. Allow extra time – travel, wait, vote.
  4. 4. Physically able folks: Park further out to allow closer parking for those who may need extra assistance. (Your kindness will also help you get in and out more quickly.)
  5. 5. Once in line, DO NOT LEAVE. As long as you are in line before 7pm, you will still be allowed to vote. If you are told otherwise, call the Voter Protection Hotline at 1-888-525-8683.

Bonus tip: Once you’ve voted, leave the last 1.5 years of political stress and frustration BEHIND. No need to take it with you. You’ve done your part, it’s done.

My (Early) Voting Experience

I live in Orange County, Florida and voted last Friday, November 4th. Arriving at the South Creek Branch of Orange County Library, I thought Friday, in the middle of an afternoon, wouldn’t be terribly crowded considering it was right before rush hour. Boy, was I wrong!

In fact, a poll worker told me that the crowds were consistent and there was always a line. All 14 days – even in the middle of the work day!

Just how long did it take me to vote? 64 minutes total. Mind you, this was during last week’s early voting period but even still, it took a lot less time than I originally assumed. All in the plan.

With over 52% of the voters having already voted, we’ve got some precincts in this county that are well over 60% or 50% of their voters have already voted.” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles. “That was the goal of early voting was to take the pressure off the polling places on Election Day.

Via Instagram, here’s how my experience went…

(Please note: I received permission to take the images below. It is illegal in Florida to take photos in the actual polling room or of your voting ballot. Don’t risk not being counted. If you’re not sure, DON’T post it.)

 

 

 

Out of the @oclslibrary grass now, into shade. Weather is nice! #ivoted #election

A post shared by Jen (@jenvargas) on

 

Up to the front of @oclslibrary now. >30 mins at this point. #EarlyVoting #ivoted #election

A post shared by Jen (@jenvargas) on

 

 

Actual #earlyvoting time (with sample ballot): 7 minutes. #ivoted #election

A post shared by Jen (@jenvargas) on

Ballot, dropping off mom's absentee ballot to #earlyvoting: 5:21pm (55 minutes) #ivoted #election

A post shared by Jen (@jenvargas) on

Time out: 5:30pm. Total time for #EarlyVoting: 64 minutes. #ivoted #election (Thanks @ocls!)

A post shared by Jen (@jenvargas) on

As I wrote in my weekly Central Florida 100 column for the Orlando Sentinel, “The sacrifices of many gave us all this privilege, and I sincerely hope people realize the importance of this right. I also hope that our nationwide conversation will encourage Central Florida citizens to stay involved in their communities long after November 8th.”  So far, so good…