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Voter guide: Key dates, how to vote, and what you need to know ahead of Florida's elections

Election image says Voter Guide with a blue background
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Here are the important dates, deadlines, and how to vote in Florida's elections.

It has been said that every election is the most important one in a generation — until the next election comes around. This year, however, may come closer to that old proverb than in previous years.

Along with the contest for U.S. president, U.S. Senate and congressional seats will be decided in Florida this year. And a host of local races for state Senate, state House, county commissions and school boards — and even hospital boards — are vying for your attention as well.

Here's a list of some of the things you'll need to know.

Key dates

Primary Election 2024

  • Deadline to send vote-by-mail ballots to Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act voters: July 6
  • Deadline to send vote-by-mail ballots to domestic voters: July 11-18
  • Deadline to register to vote or change party affiliation: July 22
  • Deadline to request that ballot be mailed: Aug. 8
  • Early voting period (mandatory period): Aug. 10-17
  • Election Day: Aug. 20

General Election 2024

  • Deadline to send vote-by-mail ballots to Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act voters: Sept. 21
  • Deadline to send vote-by-mail ballots to domestic voters: Sept. 26-Oct. 3
  • Deadline to register to vote: Oct. 7 (no deadline to change party affiliation)
  • Deadline to request that ballot be mailed: Oct. 24
  • Early voting period (mandatory period): Oct. 26-Nov. 2
  • Election Day: Nov. 5

How to register

You can register to vote online here

To be eligible to vote, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States of America;
  • Be a legal resident of Florida;
  • Be a legal resident of the county in which you seek to be registered;
  • Be at least 16 years old to preregister or at least 18 years old to register and vote;
  • Not be a person who has been adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting in Florida or any other state without having the right to vote restored; and,
  • Not be a person convicted of a felony without having your right to vote restored.

You will also need:

  • Your Florida driver's license or Florida identification card issued by the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles
  • The issued date of your Florida driver's license or Florida ID card;
  • The last four digits of your Social Security number.

The deadline to register for an upcoming election is 29 days before that election.

Vote by mail

Voters can obtain a mail-in ballot through their county's Supervisors of Elections offices. Ballots must be received at those offices by Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

 Click on your county for information on requesting a mail-in ballot:

Early voting

Here are the deadlines and locations for early voting across the greater Tampa Bay region for the Aug. 20 primary election:

  • Hillsborough: Aug. 5-18, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Pinellas: Aug. 10-18, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.
  • Sarasota: Aug. 10-Aug. 18, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Manatee: Aug. 10-17, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Pasco: Aug.10-17, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Polk: Aug. 10-17, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Hernando: Aug. 10-17, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Here are the deadlines and locations for early voting across the greater Tampa Bay region for the Nov. 5 general election:

  • Hillsborough: Oct. 21-Nov. 3, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Pinellas: Oct. 21-Nov. 3, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Sarasota: Oct. 21-Nov. 3, 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
  • Manatee: not available yet.
  • Pasco: Oct. 21-Nov. 2, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Polk: not available yet.
  • Hernando: Oct. 21-Nov. 2, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

What do I need to take to the polls?

Whether voting during early voting or on Election Day, you must bring a current and valid photo ID with signature. Any one of the following photo IDs will be accepted:

  • Florida driver’s license Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
  • United States passport Debit or credit card
  • Military identification
  • Student identification
  • Retirement center identification
  • Neighborhood association identification
  • Public assistance identification
  • Veteran health identification card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • License to carry a concealed weapon or firearm issued pursuant to s. 790.06
  • Employee identification card issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the Federal Government, the state, a county, or a municipality.

What CAN'T I bring to the polls?

Yes, you can bring your cell phone, but you CANNOT use it to take a selfie of you and your ballot.

No, you cannot bring your firearm into a polling center. Florida is one of at least eight states that explicitly bans openly carried or concealed firearms at the polls.

Florida also prohibits any political campaign materials or electioneering within 150 feet of polling places.

Races for office

U.S. presidential elections

You can find a list of candidates (it's a lot more than Joe Biden and Donald Trump) here.

U.S. Senate election

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Scott will face an August primary for the Republican nomination against John S. Columbus and Keith Gross.

The Democratic primary will pit these candidates: former Congresswoman Debbie Mucasel-Powell; former Congressman Alan Grayson; Stanley Campbell; Joseph Rod and Brian Rush.

There are also several candidates from the Libertarian Party and no party affiliation. You can find a list of candidates here.

Tampa Bay and Sarasota-area elections

Congress:

  • In District 11, which includes northern Polk, Sumter and Lake counties, incumbent Daniel Webster will face former state Rep. Anthony Sabatini and John McCloy in the Republican primary. The winner will face Barbie Harden Hall, who was unopposed in the Democratic contest.
  • In District 12, which includes portions of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, incumbent Republican Gus Bilirakis will face Hank Dunlap in the August primary. The winner will face Rock Aboujaoude Jr. who is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
  • What is shaping up to be a hotly contested race is in District 13, which covers all of Pinellas County except for parts of St. Petersburg, incumbent Republican Anna Paulina Luna is coming off her first term in office and is unopposed in the August primary. The Democrats who will vie to run against her in the general election are Whitney Fox; Sabrina Busbar; Liz Dahan; John William Liccione; and Mark Weinkrantz. Tony D'Arrigo is a write-in candidate.
  • Longtime Tampa Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor is unopposed for District 14, which includes portions of Hillsborough County and eastern St. Petersburg. She'll face one of these Republicans who survive the August primary: Ehsan Joarder; Neelam Taneja Perry; John Peters; or Robert "Rocky" Rochford. Also running are Libertarian Nathaniel T. Snyder and no-party affiliate Christopher Bradley.
  • In District 15, which includes northeast Hillsborough County and portions of Pasco and Polk counties, incumbent Republican Laurel Lee will face Jennifer Barbosa and James Judge in the August primary. The winner will face former Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, who is unopposed on the Democratic ticket.
  • District 16, which includes southern Hillsborough and Manatee counties, longtime incumbent Vern Buchanan will face Eddie Speir, who founded a Christian high school in Bradenton. Democrats in the primary will include repeat candidate Jan Schneider and Trent Miller.
  • Incumbent Republican Greg Steube is unopposed in the primary for District 17, which includes Sarasota and Charlotte counties. The Democratic primary includes candidates Manny Lopez and Matthew Montavon. Write-in candidate Ralph E. Hartman is also on the ballot.
  • In District 18, which includes portions of Polk, Hardee, Highlands and DeSoto counties, incumbent Scott Franklin is unopposed in the Republican primary. He'll face either Peter A. Braunston or Andrea Doria Kale in the Democratic primary.

Local races

For a list of candidates running for state House and state Senate seats, Circuit Court judge, public defender and state attorney, click here.

The big race is for state attorney in Hillsborough County. Andrew Warren, who was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for pledging not to prosecute certain laws regarding abortion and transgender health care, faces off in the Democratic primary against Tampa lawyer Elizabeth Martinez Strauss. The winner will face Warren's Republican replacement, former Hillsborough County Judge Suzy Lopez.

Also, the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board will hold elections for four seats in the August primary.

At issue are vaccine mandates and possibly privatizing Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Since only one Democrat qualified for each open seat, only Republicans will vote in the primary. Here's a list of the candidates.

Here's a list of the local races by county:

Amendments

There are six constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot, including measures that would roll back the state legislature's ban on abortions after six weeks and legalize recreational marijuana.

Amendment 1: Partisan election of members of district school boards

Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to require members of a district school board to be elected in a partisan election rather than a nonpartisan election and to specify that the amendment only applies to elections held on or after the November 2026 general election. However, partisan primary elections may occur before the 2026 general election for purposes of nominating political party candidates to that office for placement on the 2026 general election ballot.

Amendment 2: Right to Fish and Hunt

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to preserve forever fishing and hunting, including by the use of traditional methods, as a public right and preferred means of responsibly managing and controlling fish and wildlife. Specifies that the amendment does not limit the authority granted to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission under Section of Article IV of the State Constitution.

Amendment 3: Adult personal use of marijuana

Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.

Amendment 4: Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion

No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient's health, as determined by the patient's healthcare provider. This amendment does not change the Legislature's constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.
 
Amendment 5: Annual adjustments to the value of certain homestead exemptions

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require an annual adjustment for inflation to the value of current or future homestead exemptions that apply solely to levies other than school district levies and for which every person who has legal or equitable title to real estate and maintains thereon the permanent residence of the owner, or another person legally or naturally dependent upon the owner is eligible. This amendment takes effect January 1, 2025.

Amendment 6: Repeal of public campaign financing requirement

Proposing the repeal of the provision in the State Constitution which requires public financing for campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.

Local Referenda

Funding for schools will be a big issue in November, including votes to increase property taxes to help fund public schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Hernando counties.

This fall, Hillsborough County voters will get to decide on two local tax referenda— and both have major implications for the county’s schools.

One asks to increase property taxes by one millage, the funds of which will go toward raising teacher and staff pay.

The second is a renewal of the existing half-penny sales tax, called the Community Investment Tax (CIT), which funds major capital improvement projects such as Raymond James Stadium, stormwater infrastructure, fire stations, and new school construction.

The Pinellas County school board unanimously passed a referendum that will appear on the November ballot. The referendum would increase property taxes throughout the county, from 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value up to $1 per every $1,000.

Sarasota County voters will vote to continue an optional local property tax for the school district, It will determine whether the district can continue to levy a 1 mill per year tax on property, equal to $1 per $1,000 of taxable value.

Hernando County voters will weigh in on a proposed school board referendum to decide if the current half-cent sales tax should be levied for another 10 years.
 
In Manatee County, voters will be asked to extend the 1-mill property tax for public schools. The referendum was first approved in 2018 and provides funding for salary supplements for employees, STEAM education, career and technical education, and charter schools.

Our journalists are independent, curious, respectful, and accountable to you. We’re committed to keeping you at the center of this conversation on democracy, staying in touch through surveys, social media, and in-person events. We won’t be chasing politicians, but instead we’ll tell stories based on the questions you want answered.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.