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Interview: AARP's Zayne Smith on what has changed for Florida voters

Image: Florida Division of Elections
Image: Florida Division of Elections

The deadline is Monday, July 25, to register to vote or change your registration before the Aug. 23 primary.

AARP Florida Director of Advocacy Zayne Smith has tracked the changes in Florida's elections laws.

[caption id="attachment_197710" align="alignleft" width="400"]

Zayne Smith is director of advocacy for AARP in Florida. Image: Via Zoom call[/caption]

She spoke with WMFE about what voters need to know this year.

"There's a few really important things that all voters need to know.

"First, if they're registered to vote. We encourage at AARP every voter to verify that they are registered. With some of the changes that occurred over the past two years during the legislative session that impact our election laws, voters were removed from the voting rolls, and we don't want to see people getting surprised on on election day that they're not registered to vote.

"So everybody should be checking their registration."

And Smith also focused on new ID requirements.

"One of the other things that people need to be aware of are those new ID requirements. So you need to have a valid Florida driver's license or photo ID when you register or when you request your ballot or when you go to vote on Election Day.

"... There are some new restrictions on bringing someone's vote-by-mail ballot to the mailbox or a drop box.

"So we all know that vote by mail is extremely popular, especially with older residents here in Florida. And one of the ways that the law has changed is it restricts who may return a ballot for someone else. Right now, under our current law, you can only have two ballots of someone that is not related to you by blood or by marriage, that you return to a ballot box.

"You know, in your past you could collect your whole neighborhood if you wanted to just help out people and return to the ballot box. That's now illegal."

Voter Information Lookup

So where do you register online or check on your voter registration?

"You can go to the Florida voter information portal  on the Secretary of State website, Division of Elections.

"It's pretty simple. You can type in your information in the required fields, and it will tell you if you're registered or not registered. It also gives you all the information about where to vote, what your voting precinct is, and how you would be able to contact your local Supervisor of Elections to find out information locally of where and when you'll be able to vote."

Supervised Voting Teams

Smith also addressed how ballots can be collected in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

"What we utilize in the state of Florida for voting in nursing homes and assisted living facilities or what are called supervised voting teams.

"These are specially trained teams out of the local supervisors of elections offices that schedule with the nursing home a time for the ballots to be delivered to the residents. The residents then cast their ballots. They are then sealed and then returned directly back to the supervisor of elections office.

"This practice is still legal and it's something that nursing homes and assisted living facilities can do this election year."

Voting matters

Smith stressed the importance of voting for seniors and everyone else.

"And ironically what we see not only here in Florida but across the country is large numbers of seniors really making the difference in these elections.

"Our vote is our voice and our representation in Tallahassee and then also in Washington, D.C. And when we have issues in the state of Florida that are impacting the daily lives of 50 and older whether it be about your health care your prescription drugs, your financial security, your housing, the way you make the change is by casting that vote."

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.