Voting 101

As of 2015, the millennial generation accounts for one third of the electorate. With 40 percent of millennials identifying as non-white, this is the most diverse voting generation in history. For the past three decades, voters have been disproportionately of higher income, older or more partisan in their interests – and the result has been mounting income inequality, reduced emphasis on social issues, and increasingly conservative economic policies. Currently, 46 million young people aged 18-29 years old are eligible to vote. This huge advantage promises to impact the outcome of elections in the coming years.


Facts and statistics

– 21.5 percent of young people, ages 18-29, voted in the 2014 midterm elections

– According to early exit polls, 13% of votes cast in the 2014 midterm elections were cast by young people, ages 18-29

– Young voters in 2014 favored Democratic Congressional candidates over Republicans. According to the national exit poll data on House races, youth aged 18-29 preferred Democratic candidates by 55 percent to 42 percent. Young voters also backed Democratic candidates in most Senate races. 

– 46 million young people aged 18-29 years old are eligible to vote, while 39 million seniors are eligible to vote

– Young people (18-29) make up 21% of the voting eligible population in the U.S.

– In the 2012 elections, young voters (under age 30) chose Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 60%- 37%, a 23-point margin, according to the National Exit Polls. Obama won the youth vote and lost the over-45 vote in several states, including Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He won those states’ electoral votes, which demonstrates the importance of youth voters to the outcome.

– Voters ages 18-29, a core part of the Democratic party’s coalition, made up 13 percent of the national electorate this year, compared to 19 percent in 2012, representing approximately 14 million fewer young voters.

– In 2012, a presidential election year, 60 percent of voters 18-29 backed the Democratic candidate for the House, and 38 percent backed the Republican candidate, a gap of 22 points. In the midterm years of 2014 and 2010, the percentages for the Democrat were 54 percent and 55 percent, respectively, while the Republican candidate won 43 percent and 42 percent in 2014 and 2010, respectively. The exit polls show young Republican voters, like young Democratic voters, also turn out in lower numbers during midterm years, but the drop off is less dramatic.

– Voters ages 18-29 in 2014 were less likely to self-identify as Democrats than in either 2012 or in 2010. According to exit polls, 37 percent of young voters considered themselves Democrats, down from 44 percent in 2012. At the same time, the percentage of young voters who identified as Republican inched up from 26 percent in 2012 to 31 percent this year. Those who identified as independent also moved up from 30 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2014

–  50% of eligible young voters (ages 18 to 29) cast a vote in 2012, accounting for 23 million votes.

– In 2012 19% of all votes cast came from young voters

Voter requirements in Florida

  1. Be a United States citizen
  2. Be a Florida resident (if you are an out-of state resident you must register with your state and vote in the election via absentee ballot, but do not fear, I shall touch on that later on in the course)
  3. Be 18 or over
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony (unless your civil rights have been restored since your conviction)
  5. Not been “adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting in Florida or any other state.”
  6. Be able to provide your current and valid Florida driver’s license number or Florida identification card number. If you do not have a Florida driver’s license number or a Florida identification card number then you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number. If you do not have any of these items, you must write “none” in the box or field.

Registering to Vote

  1. Request or pick-up a Florida Voter Registration Application from your County Supervisor of Elections office. (Sarasota County’s is Kathy Dent, the address for the Sarasota office is 101 S. Washington Blvd. Sarasota, FL 34236. The office is located on the first floor of the Terrace Building at the corner of US 301 (Washington Blvd) and Ringling Blvd. The office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The phone number is (941)-861-8600. If for whatever reason you have the desire to fax the Sarasota County Supervisor of Election’s office, the number is (941)-861-8609.) Complete, sign and mail the application to the office of your County Supervisor of Elections.
  2. Fill in the online application form on the Division of Elections’ website (Florida’s is Print, sign and mail the application to the office of your County Supervisor of Elections (Kathy Dent, hit her up).
  3. Apply through any Florida driver’s license office or tax collector’s office that issues driver’s licenses or Florida identification cards. 
  4. Apply through any “voter registration agency” (i.e., any government entity designated by the National Voter Registration Act or state law who must allow you to apply to register) at the same time you obtain new or renewing agency services or update your address for the continued receipt of such services. These agencies include:
    1. Any office that provides public assistance
    2. Any office that primarily serves persons with disabilities
    3. Any military recruitment office
    4. Any public library
  5. Obtain a Florida Voter Registration Application form from any entity authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to issue permits for fishing, hunting or trapping. Complete, sign and mail the application to your County Supervisor of Elections (see above)

Tips on completing and submitting your freshly procured form

  1. Fill in the Voter Registration Application online or print the application and write your information in with a black ballpoint pen.
  2. Print the application.
  3. Verify that all of the information on your application is complete. The office where you register, your decision not to register, your Social Security Number, your Florida driver’s license number and your Florida identification card number will remain confidential and will be used only for voter registration purposes. Your signature can be viewed, but not copied. Other information becomes a public record. 
  4. Sign your application. The application requires an original signature because you are swearing or affirming to an oath. If the information on the application is not true, the applicant can be convicted of a felony of the third degree and fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to five years.
  5. Mail the application to your county Supervisor of Elections (the one and only Kathy Dent). You may also opt to mail or hand deliver the application to any Supervisor of Elections’ office in the state, a driver’s license office, a voter registration agency including an armed forces recruitment office, public library, or the Division of Elections.
  6. If your application is complete and you qualify as a voter, the Supervisor of Elections will mail you a voter information card as official notification that you are registered to vote. Generally, you must be registered for at least 29 days before you can vote in an election. Tuesday, March 15, 2016 is the presidential primary date for Florida (which puts the final registration date at February 25, 2016).

Updating your voter registration record and replacing your voter information card

If you have already registered to vote in Florida, but need to change your name, address or party affiliation, update your signature, or apply for a replacement card:

  1. Fill in the Voter Registration Application online. You can print the application and write your information in with a black ballpoint pen. Provide the information that you wish to change or update:
    • Party Change You can change your party affiliation by any signed written notice such as a voter registration application. It must include your date of birth or voter registration number. All party changes for a primary election must be made by the registration deadline, which is 29 days before the primary election (February 25, 2016 for Florida voters). For a general election, a party change can be made at any time. A list of all political parties recognized by the state of Florida is included below.
    • Address Change. If you move within a county after you have registered to vote, or move to a new county within Florida, please notify the Supervisor of Elections of the county of your new residence. You may make the change in person, by phone or other electronic means or by other signed, written notice. You must provide your date of birth.
    • Name Change. If your name changes by marriage or other legal process, submit the change in a signed written notice such as a voter registration application. It must include your date of birth or voter registration number.
    • Signature Update. You must submit signature updates using the voter registration application. In order for the signature updates to be used for signature comparisons in canvassing absentee and provisional ballots, the update must be received before canvassing of absentee ballots begins. Canvassing may begin as early as 15 days before an election.
    • Card Replacement. If you have lost your voter information card, you can request that a new card be sent to you by checking the appropriate box on the voter registration application.
  2. Print, sign, and mail the application to the county Supervisor of Elections.
  3. If the change is made, the Supervisor of Elections will mail you an updated voter information card. Make sure all of the information on your card is correct. If you have any questions, call the county Supervisor of Elections at (941)-861-8600.

Party Affiliation

Florida is a closed primary state, which means that only voters who are registered members of political parties may vote for respective party candidates for an office in a primary election.

However, there are times when all registered voters can vote in a primary election, regardless of which major or minor political party they are registered or even if they are registered without a specific party affiliation:

  1. If all the candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner of the primary election will not face any opposition in the general election (i.e. no write-in candidates have qualified), then all registered voters can vote for any of the candidates for that office in the primary election.
  2. If races for nonpartisan (i.e., free from party affiliation) judicial and school board offices, nonpartisan special districts or local referendum questions are on the primary election ballot, then all registered voters, including those without party affiliation are entitled to vote those races on the ballot.

At a general election, all registered voters receive the same ballot and may vote for any candidate or question on the ballot. If there are write-in candidates who have qualified for a particular office, a space will be left on the ballot where their name can be written.

Florida’s recognized political parties:

Major Political Parties

  • Florida Democratic Party (DEM)
  • Republican Party of Florida (REP)

Because of the rules and regulations regarding the two-party system, you CANNOT vote in the presidential primaries unless you’re registered with the same party as your desired presidential nominee. (This is for all you third-party members “feeling the Bern,” you CANNOT vote for Bernie in the primaries unless you are a registered democrat. Seriously. But no worries, as soon as this election season is over feel free to swear your allegiance to the Peace & Freedom party via the long-winded explanation above.)

Minor Political Parties

  • America’s Party of Florida (AIP)
  • Constitution Party of Florida (CPF)
  • Ecology Party of Florida (ECO)
  • Florida Socialist Workers Party (FSW)
  • Green Party of Florida (GRE)
  • Independence Party of Florida (IDP)
  • Independent Party of Florida (INT)
  • Justice Party of Florida (JPF)
  • Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF)
  • Party for Socialism and Liberation- Florida (PSL)
  • Peace & Freedom Party of Florida (PFP)
  • Reform Party (REF)
  • Tea Party of Florida (TPF)

Absentee voting policies:

Absentee voting (aka “mail-in voting” and “by-mail voting”) is conducted by mail-in ballot before the day of the election. All states will mail a ballot to voters if certain conditions are met. The voter may return the ballot in person or by mail. Some states will let voters apply for an absentee ballot in person before the election and then vote the ballot that same day. Twenty-one states require voters to provide an excuse for voting by absentee ballot. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia offer no-excuse absentee voting. The entire list of states and the specific requirements for absentee voting that each state follows can be found on For students trying to vote from overseas, you may register through the Overseas Vote Foundation. The deadline for valid absentee ballots to be counted is no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots may be returned in person or by mail. If you plan to mail your ballot, be sure to mail early to avoid postal service delays, ballots post-marked on Election Day do not count.



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