Elections

2020 election guide: Key dates, deadlines and details Florida voters need to know

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The 2020 election has the potential to be one of the most fascinating political moments in history.

With a crowded pool of Democrats seeking the presidency and candidates entering and leaving the race, the frenetic election cycle was in high gear more than a year before Election Day, November 3, 2020.

Here are some key Florida dates, deadlines and definitions voters should know as the race to the White House ramps up.

Democrats debate

On July 30 and 31, the qualifying Democratic candidates will duke it out on stage in Detroit. On Sept. 12 and 13, they will debate in Houston.

Following the Detroit debate, the polling and fundraising thresholds to qualify for future debates will rise dramatically. Candidates need 2 percent support in four polls along with 130,000 unique donors and at least 400 donors in 20 states to make the debates in Houston. Only eight candidates have met or are close to that threshold as of July 10: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke.

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From September through next April, there will be one Democratic debate per month. Other than Houston, dates and locations have yet to be announced.

Caucuses and primaries

February 3 marks the Iowa caucus, where Iowans will cast their vote. Republicans use secret ballots, while Democrats stand together in groups to show their support.

On February 11, New Hampshire voters will cast the first round of primary votes in the country, which plays an important role in setting the tone of the contest for the rest of the nation.

February 22 is the Nevada Democratic caucuses, February 29 is the South Carolina Democratic primary and March 3 is “Super Tuesday,” a make-or-break primary day on which California, Texas and at least 11 other states will vote.

Florida’s presidential preference primary is March 17.

Conventions

The Democratic National Convention will be July 13-16 in Milwaukee.

The Republican National Convention will be August 24-27 in Charlotte.

Actually voting

The Florida primary for the general election — local races plus state House and Senate primaries — is August 18.

November 3 is Election Day.

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Voter registration deadlines

The deadline to register for an upcoming election is 29 days before. Since Florida is a closed primary election state, a party change for a primary election must be made by the registration deadline for that election. A closed primary means only voters who are registered members of political parties may vote for respective party candidates or nominees in a primary election.

At the general election, all voters receive the same ballot and can vote for any candidate.

Presidential Preference Primary: You must register by Feb. 18, 2020.

General election primary: Register by July 20, 2020.

General election: Register by Oct. 5, 2020.

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Voting by mail

The deadline to request that a vote-by-mail ballot be mailed to a voter at a current U.S. address is no later than 5 p.m. on the 10th day before the election. However, the ballot must still be received by the Supervisor of Elections in the voter’s county no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day if the voted ballot is to count.

There are special requirements and much earlier deadlines for voters who are outside the U.S., including members of the military and their families. Get details from the Florida Department of State at dos.myflorida.com/elections.

Wait, what is a Presidential Preference Primary?

In the Presidential Preference Primary Election, voters registered with one of Florida’s major political parties choose a presidential candidate they would like to see representing their party on the November ballot.

After this preliminary election, designated political party delegates from Florida will nominate the preferred presidential candidate at the party’s national convention next summer.

A preference primary is conducted by the state, whereas caucuses are conducted by the parties themselves.

How to register

You can register to vote on your local election supervisor’s website, email register@miamidade.gov if you live in Miami-Dade County or you can submit a voter registration application by mail or in person at your local supervisor’s office.

You can also access online voter registration at the state website: https://registertovoteflorida.gov/en/Registration/Index

Early voting

The early voting periods for 2020 are March 7 to 14 for the Presidential Preference Primary, August 8 to 15 for the general election primary and October 24 to 31 for the general election.

Each county supervisor of elections can also offer more days of early voting before and after the mandatory early voting days.

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Who else will be on the ballot?

In addition to the nominated presidential candidates, the November 2020 general election will also include some local races. In Miami-Dade County, Aventura, Bal Harbour, Cutler Bay, Doral, El Portal, Medley, Miami Lakes, North Bay Village, North Miami Beach, Opa-locka, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest and Sunny Isles Beach will have their general election on Election Day.

Biscayne Park and Key Biscayne will hold their municipal elections then, and Miami Gardens will have its runoff.

Most Broward County cities have their municipal elections on Nov. 3.

Where to vote

The sample ballot, which becomes available about a month prior to an election, includes voting instructions and locations for both early and regular voting.

You can check your voter status at the state website: https://registration.elections.myflorida.com/en/CheckVoterStatus

Samantha J. Gross is a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she covered breaking news at the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News.
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