EDITORIAL: Giving Thanks for a Successful Election
By Jennifer J. Edwards, Collier County Supervisor of Elections
One of our most fundamental rights as Americans is the ability to shape our government through the democratic process. It is my belief that there is nothing more sacred than that and I am honored to serve as the Supervisor of Elections for the “super voters” of Collier County!
We were so proud to lead the state in turnout in 2016, and then amazed and humbled to see that record shattered again this year with over 90% of our county’s electorate casting a ballot during the 2020 General Election. With the uncertainties of conducting a presidential election in the middle of a national health crisis, we were prepared to be underwhelmed by the participation in this election, but it is evident that our voters listened to our call for turnout and not even a global pandemic had the ability to get in the way of having their voices heard!
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we have so much to be thankful for…
Thank you to our voters!
Whether you chose to vote by mail, vote early or vote on Election Day, we want to acknowledge how truly honored we are that you entrusted our office to count your votes.
Although voting by mail has been popular for decades in both Florida and Collier County, we knew that we needed to do more to educate voters on the accessibility that requesting a Vote-by-Mail ballot provided as we navigated through holding an election in the middle of a pandemic. From social media posts, to radio ads and partnerships with our local broadcasting networks, we jumped on every opportunity allotted to us in order to share that voting by mail is a safe and secure way to cast a ballot. Through our efforts, we saw a gradual climb in Vote-by-Mail requests from 56,000 during the March Presidential Preference Primary to over 123,000 requests in the General Election – a nearly 120% increase.
Even more encouraging was the activity we saw in voters casting their Vote-by-Mail ballot. Approximately 90% of voters who requested a ballot cast it during the General Election. This made voting by mail the most popular way of voting in the General Election. We have faith that this pandemic won’t last forever, but we do hope we see many repeat customers when it comes to the Vote-by-Mail service provided by our office.
We are also proud of the voters who turned out to cast their ballot during early voting and on Election Day. We once again saw voters turn out in record numbers with over 77,500 voters casting a ballot during the 13-day early voting period. We appreciate voters who helped us by being “election ready” when voting in person by bringing their own personal protective equipment, their marked sample ballot and for bringing their patience as our volunteers helped assist voters in a safe and efficient manner.
Thank you to our poll workers!
It takes hundreds of poll workers to staff an election. Unfortunately, this recruitment effort was also challenged by the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. With the average election worker meeting the demographic of those who were most vulnerable to coronavirus, we saw several volunteers make the tough decision to not participate this year. However, in their place came a wave of support from the younger generation. Our office processed more poll worker applications between June and October of this year than we had in 2016 and 2018 combined. For more than half of those who worked at the polls this year, 2020 was their first experience volunteering during elections.
Over 275 volunteers filled 1,300 positions during early voting and more than 625 workers worked a 14-hour shift on Election Day. Thank you – we cannot conduct elections without your dedicated hard work at the polls!
Thank you to our election security partners!
The Department of Homeland Security has reported that the 2020 elections were the most secure elections in American history and we agree. Since 2016, elections nationwide have been considered a critical infrastructure which has allowed our office and other election officials across the state and the country to access funding and support from such partners as the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Florida Department of State. With their support, we have and will continue to make election security a top priority.
The mission of our office is to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. Although voting in the 2020 Election Cycle has closed, our office continues to work to serve the voters of Collier County.
Thank you for your confidence in us and have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!