JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Community advocates, ministers and students gathered in front of the Supervisor of Elections Office downtown Saturday to voice concern about voter access in the upcoming general election.
The activists said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for the election, particularly because poll workers tend to be older and are therefore more at risk of serious harm if they contract the virus.
They said that should lead SOE Mike Hogan to encourage more voters to vote-by-mail by sending vote-by-mail applications to all eligible voters. Typically, Florida voters must request a vote-by-mail ballot.
They said data from the August primary showed Duval County lagged behind comparable Florida counties in vote-by-mail participation and in 2018 Duval County had the fifth lowest vote-by-mail participation rate of any Florida county and by far the lowest rate for a mid-to-large county.
The activists argue that voting by mail is the best way to prevent large crowds and long lines at polling places during the pandemic.
RELATED: Voting by mail in Florida
They also expressed concern about the closure of voting sites at Edward Waters College and the University of North Florida and the number of rejected mail-in ballots from the August primary.
“We demand Mike Hogan’s office also mail out voter education pamphlets clearly explaining why signatures must be included on mail-in-ballots, when vote-by-mail ballots must be returned, that voters should include their contact information with their signature in case a cure is needed, and a map of the location of each ballot deposit drop box that is to be located outside of each early voting location,” the coalition said in a news release.
The advocates said they don’t want voters to have to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting their health.
Hogan said there will be 20 early-voting sites that will also have dropped boxes. Hogan said there will also be a joint effort with the Jaguars with a drive-by early-voting option.
Late July, there were 264,000 fliers sent to people who typically do not vote by mail to tell them how they can participate.