Florida’s Primary Election is upon us, and that means area voters will have the wonderful opportunity to participate in a political process that ultimately decides who represents us at various levels of government.
This is a packed Primary Election that includes everything from hotly contested gubernatorial races to county and city commission contests to judge selections. A variety of candidates are hoping you’ll show them your support so they can square off against their opponents in the General Election on Nov. 6 and ultimately play a role in the future of government at all levels in Florida.
But this election also comes with an odd feeling and a bit of concern. We, as a country, came out of the 2016 presidential election with allegations being slung in all directions on everything from voter fraud to Russian hacking. That election redefined the word “nasty,” and unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped yet.
To many, it seemed impossible to consider the fact that the Russians might have hacked our voting machines and played a role in the outcome of the presidential election – and possibly other contests as well.
Frankly, for those of us classified as senior citizens, the very idea of Russia – the evil enemy of freedom for so many years – having any kind of influence whatsoever in our democratic process was sickening at best. After all, we lived through the Cold War. And we were thrilled to be alive in 1989 when President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev worked together to bring it to an end and take down the Berlin Wall, effectively dealing communism a blow many – us included – thought we’d never see.
But that was then and this is now, and we’re living in a different time. We operate in world where the internet is king and high-level cybercrimes are the norm. Identities are being stolen by the minute and crimes are being committed in the online world that many of us would have a hard time even trying to understand.
Unfortunately, that includes hacking elections and affecting outcomes. During a July campaign visit to the Wildwood Community Center, Sen. Bill Nelson made it clear that he believes Russian hackers are in Florida and will do their best to influence outcomes here in the Sunshine State. He said that he and fellow U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to elections officials in all 67 Florida counties encouraging them to contact the Department of Homeland Security to do everything possible to eliminate the hacking threat.
So what does all this mean for you? It’s a scary situation, no doubt about that. But you can take solace in knowing that things are being done at high levels to protect your vote. And you can be very thankful to know that when you walk into your precinct Tuesday – much like it was for those who took advantage of early voting – you will see the familiar faces of many of your friends and neighbors.
That’s because those friendly faces are serving as poll workers and doing their part to make sure your voting experience is smooth and easy. Many of them are retirees who enjoy taking part in the political process and seeing their neighbors when they come to vote. And they are doing a great service to all of us by making sure the voting process works.
But make no mistake about it – these folks are working hard as they deal with thousands of voters. They’ve already gone through training sessions to get the job. And they aren’t making a whole lot of money in the process.
But what they are doing is making sure we get the correct ballots and know how to operate voting machines or how to color in those small ovals next to our candidate of choice. Most importantly, they’re protecting the integrity of the voting process at the local level. And that means they’re doing everything possible to make sure everyone’s vote gets properly counted so that ultimately, the correct candidate gets the job and various measures either pass or fail.
So as the Primary Election nears, we’ll leave you with this. Please vote. It’s a right we enjoy as citizens of the greatest country in the world and something none of us ever should take lightly. And when you’re casting your ballot, offer a word of thanks to those poll workers – again, your friends and neighbors – who are doing their best to make sure the integrity of the democratic process is alive and well and stays that way.