Election season is here Last day to register to vote is Feb. 16

Election season is upon us.  With all the buzz of political campaigns, ranging from presidential to our own local seats of office – such as School Superintendent, City Commissioners and Sheriff – it can be truly dizzying to stay on top of all the needed information provided to the public during this time.

While anyone with questions can call the Madison County Supervisor of Elections, Tommy Hardee, with their inquiries at (850) 973-6507, here are a few matters to keep in mind as we approach this important time of working democracy.

For early voting, which is March 5 through March 12, you will be able to vote in any location within the county for the Presidential Preference Primary election as well as the local candidates election.  However, on Election Day, which is March 15, you will be required to vote in the voting site that is in your precinct; not sure where that is? Go to  www.votemadison.com and use the search tool titled, ‘Find Your Precinct’ as instructed. Not only will it display the voting site for your precinct, but it will also display a timeline of voting and election dates as well as sample ballots.

One factor to remember before you head to the polls, however, is that Florida is a closed primary state, meaning the primaries are open only to people who have a candidate running that is affiliated under the voter’s party.  For example, during the primaries, a democrat voter may not cross over and vote for a republican candidate under normal circumstances.  The only situation where a voter may cross over to vote in another party during a Florida primary is if the candidates are all in one party, which is called a Universal Primary. If every candidate running for office is republican then every voter, no matter which party they are affiliated with, may vote for whomever they please.

If you are registered as a democrat, republican or non-affiliated voter and want to vote for someone outside of your affiliated party, than an official party change will be required.  Changing your party is free of charge and quick; simply walk into the office of the Madison County Supervisor of Elections located on 239 SW Pinckney St. in Madison, and request a party change.  A voter application form will be handed to you to fill out and after you have filled out any changes you wish to make – such as party, address, name or contact – a new voter registration card will be made for you.

Just remember, the deadline for changing your information ends on Feb. 16. After that date, you can no longer change your information until after the Presidential Primary has ended.

To those who use early voting methods and mail in their ballot or those who may need to sign an absentee ballet, Hardee recommends an updated signature change.  Through the years, everyone experiences a change in his or her signature; it sometimes gets better or worse, or maybe a last name has changed and the signature on file for the voter is no longer accurate. In any case, to be assured that your signed approval on an early voting or absentee ballot is accepted, update your voter’s signature. In order for the signature update to be used for signature comparison in canvassing of absentee and provisional ballots, the update must be received before canvassing of absentee ballots begins. Canvassing can begin as early as 15 days before an election.

Absentee ballots are valid for up to two years, so if you are not certain that yours is still verified, call the Madison County Supervisor of Elections office.

Federal Offices that are open for election in the 2016 Florida election season are: President and Vice President, United States Senator and U.S. Representatives in Congress (for congressional districts 2 and 3).  State offices that are running for election are: State Senator, State Representative, Public Defender and State Attorney.  Constitutional Offices that are running for either election or reelection are: Sheriff, Clerk of Court, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Supervisor of Elections, Superintendent of Schools.  County offices that are facing reelection or election during the 2016-voting season are: Board of County Commissioners (districts 1, 3 and 5) and School Board (districts 2 and 4).

In addition, the Judicial Candidates, the Third Judicial Circuit Judge is a position open for election or reelection.

While March 15 is the Presidential Preference Primary election, it is far from the end of the event.  It is election year and as such, there will be a flurry of voting, election and book closing dates to remember.  So make a list and keep it close to remember when to be in the polls casting your vote!

Primary Election closes its book on August 1 and the election is held on August 30.

General Election closes its books on October 11 and the election is held November 8.

If you plan on sending in an absentee ballot, make certain that it gets to the office of the Supervisor of Elections in time by sending it in well ahead of the deadline; postal services can be unpredictable and if your ballot doesn’t get to the Supervisor of Elections in time, it won’t be verified.

To send in your absentee ballot for the Presidential Preference Primary (and the elections of local municipal offices), send it in on February 9-16.

For the Presidential Primary, send your absentee ballot on July 26 – August 2.

In the General Election, you will need to send your absentee ballot on October 4 – 11.

Early voting sites in Madison County for the 2016 election are as follows:

Madison County Board Room Annex located at 229 SW Pinckney St. in Madison.

Lee City Hall located at 286 NE County Road 255 in Lee.

Greenville Senior Citizens Building located at 166 S.W. Onslow St. in Greenville.

Pinetta Volunteer Fire Department located at 509 NE Persimmon Dr. in Pinetta.

Be sure to check with the www.votemadison.com website or call the office of the Supervisor of Elections to look up the election day voting site for your precinct if you are uncertain where it will be.

Remember, your voice counts.

Don’t let this voting season pass by without putting in a ballot and taking responsibility for your country, county and state.   

When you are at the voting polls, be sure to bring your personal ID with a picture of yourself (Florida driver’s license, United States passport, student identification, military identification and debit or credit card are all verified options of identification), as you will be asked to show it.  If your photo ID does not include your signature, you will be asked to provide another ID that does show your signature.

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