Should People Over The Age Of 70 Lose The Right To Vote?

In 1970, Douglas Stewart, a university professor in California, was upset by the rise of Ronald Reagan and suggested that perhaps there were too many old people moving to California and voting, writing a controversial article in the New Republic titled “Disenfranchise the old”:

The vote should not be a privilege in perpetuity, guaranteed by minimal physical survival, but a share in the continuing fate of the political community, both in its benefits and its risks. The old, having no future, are dangerously free from the consequences of their own political acts, and it makes no sense to allow the vote to someone who is actuarially unlikely to survive, and pay the bills for, the politician or party he may help elect…. I would advocate that all persons lose the vote at retirement or age 70, whichever is earlier.

Now as a baby boomer within two elections of that “best before” age, of course I’m shocked and appalled at such a suggestion; it’s ageist and discriminatory, and boomers and seniors have so much to offer.

But Stewart has a point. What he saw in California in the ’70s is playing out in America today. The boomers and the older voters won the presidential election (although Donald Trump did win among young white people without a college education).

And as I predicted, the millennials did not show up in anything like the numbers the boomers and seniors did, and the current government is doing everything in its power to turn back the clock, to reduce taxes on the rich baby boomers, to remove regulations that protect the environment for generations young and yet to come, so that extractors and developers can make money now.

In effect, the older voters get to keep what’s theirs and leave the mess for the kids to clean up.

You can see this happening plain as day with the new Trumpcare act working its way through the Senate, one that dramatically cuts funding for Medicaid. Note the shape of the spending curve for the aged — it goes up and then down, so that the impact on older voters isn’t felt for a decade, when many might well be dead. Because as Reagan noted, “You dance with the one that brung ya.”

‘Kicking the can down the road’

You can see it happening with debt and the way governments are run. Sayyajit Das writes in Bloomberg about how we’re living today at the expense of tomorrow:

The prevailing approach to dealing with these problems exacerbates generational tensions. The central strategy is “kicking the can down the road” or “extend and pretend,” avoiding crucial decisions that would reduce current living standards, eschewing necessary sacrifices, and deferring problems with associated costs into the future.

You see it happening in cities and suburbs around North America, where older voters reject initiatives to build transit, increase density or install bike lanes in favor of NIMBYism, resistance to change, and maintaining the right to drive a big car anywhere and to have free or cheap parking when they get there.

I’ve argued in the past that millennials have nobody to blame but themselves if they don’t show up and vote, but that’s not entirely true; the older people in charge have made it very difficult for them to vote and have gamed the system. And once they have that power, they use it. Daniel Munroe discusses the issue in Macleans:

Decisions made by older generations will affect the interests of younger and unborn generations, but those younger generations will themselves have less or no say. Moreover, as some argue, older citizens have greater incentives to deplete natural resources, underinvest in infrastructure, accumulate public debt and ignore the environment. Polls of top political issues show that concern for the environment and education declines with age. Grandma votes against carbon taxes and recycling programs, and Grandpa votes against education spending? So take away their right to vote and let younger people make decisions about the future.

Given that the older Republican base controls Congress and most state governments, they have the levers now to gerrymander districts and suppress voter registration, disenfranchising younger voters. It’s unlikely that they’re going to take away the votes of older boomers and seniors who put them in power.

And in the end, it’s probably a moot point anyway. According to Ronald Brownstein in the Atlantic, the next presidential election in 2020 is going to be the first since 1974 in which the baby boomers are not the largest cohort, where millennials will be 34 percent of voters while boomers will shrink to 28 percent. Only half of eligible millennials voted in 2016; one suspects that in 2020, they may be older, wiser and more engaged.

They had better be paying attention, because as Sayyajit Das so elegantly put it:

Future generations will bear the ultimate cost of present decisions or inaction. As in Francisco Goya’s famous painting, “Saturn Devouring His Son,” today, the old are eating their children.

How to Take a Ballot Selfie and Not Get Arrested

Early voting is in full swing, and in 2016, that means people are just as excited about bragging that they voted as they are about actually participating in democracy. Unfortunately, because this is America, actively playing a part in the electoral process can bring about some real legal trouble, and in this case, the newly ubiquitous ballot selfie has been causing a stir, as a number of states have outlawed taking photos in the voting booth. In those states, voters caught taking pictures with their ballots, particularly if they’re already filled out, could face a fine or even jail time.

This leads to an important moment of self-reflection: Would I risk jail time for humble-bragging? Of course I would. But where I’d face that jail time is unclear: While the practice of ballot selfies is only full-on illegal in sixteen states, the majority of the country has a murky policy that leaves most voters just as confused and under-informed as the officials who are supposed to be enforcing their punishment.

Not everyone is willing to take such a risk, so we’ve done our patriotic duty and compiled a list of ways to let the world know how very woke and civically engaged you are without ending up in prison.

Take a photo outside your polling place.

This is the most conservative route, if you feel it’s better to be safe than sorry. At their harshest, lawmakers are declaring that there be no photography taken within 100 meters of a polling place, so measure your steps and get out that iPhone.

Take a photo with your mail-in ballot.

While you run the highest risk to get in trouble if you take a photo on-site at a polling place, it’s far less likely you’ll receive flack for throwing a filter on your mail-in ballot. Sure, there’s a possibility that a particularly sharp state representative might be combing through the #ivoted hashtag on Twitter and bust you, but the chances are significantly lower. And seriously, if they’re doing that, they need a new hobby.

That’s why they gave you the sticker, dummy.

The “I Voted!” stickers given out at polling places have been popular fixtures since the 1980s and for many, hold a certain amount of social currency. While many voters believe that everyone should have the right to make their ballots as public as their opinions are under the First Amendment, the stickers simply note that you’re an active participant. If you want to make a bigger splash than just saying you did it, that’s where the controversy of making a ballot public comes in.

Take a photo with your unmarked ballot.

In many states, this still carries a pretty significant risk, but if you absolutely needto show the world you made it all the way into a voting booth (go you!), pout and pose before you actually cast your vote. The reason that this causes such a conflict of interest in the first place is that while all Americans are entitled to freedom of speech, they’re just as entitled to the integrity of the voting process. How do filled-in ballot photos threaten that? Well, that’s the dilemma — not all states agree that they do.

Just brag that you’re voting without picturing the ballot.

Studies universally indicate that people are more likely to vote themselves if they see that their friends on Facebook are voting, too. Do what you’ve gotta do; wrap your naked body in the flag, get an “I’m With Her” neck tattoo, write a hideous song, and post it online. Obviously it is by no means illegal to reveal who you’ve voted for online (that’s what Twitter was built for), but in some places it can be flying too close to the sun to show the very paperwork on which you’re making it official. Either way, ballot-less selfies will still be encouraging to the more reluctant voters perusing your feed, and that’s just science.

Do whatever you want because the laws will probably change soon, anyway.

Because the laws can range from no punishment to jail time for an innocent snapshot, experts predict that the actual punishments imposed in the sixteen (mostly southern) states that technically make voting selfies illegal won’t be very severe; after all, most voters don’t know that what they’re doing is, in fact, illegal. The worry most states cite, in spite of frustration expressed by major social channels like Snapchat, is that posting a completed ballot will encourage vote buying, though no studies have indicated that is true.

So what happens if I you get caught, really?

In the states where ballot selfies are flat out illegal — New York, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Kansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Connecticut, and New Jersey — punishment can range from a small fine to a jail stint of a few months. In other places like California, it’s okay to take a ballot selfie this time around, but it’ll be outlawed after this election. While there haven’t been many reported cases of actual legal entanglements resulting from ballot selfies in the early voting process thus far, high-profile figures like Justin Timberlake have received a public slap on the wrist for making their voting experience public.

This election season, it’s more important than ever to remind your friends both to vote themselves and, more importantly, show them how good you look voting. Just please, make sure that selfie doesn’t include handcuffs.

Do Early Election Results Influence Voters?

Is there such a thing as too much information?

Probably. Psychologist Barry Schwartz calls it the Paradox of Choice: the more choices we have, the less happy we are.

And yet, who makes the decision about what you know and when? Most people don’t really want someone else making that choice for them.

This is especially true when it comes to politics, where transparency is king. In a high-emotion election like this, it’s easy to become obsessed with real-time info and poll-data analysis on sites like FiveThirtyEight. Gone are the days of voting and waking up the next morning to find out who won — though that’s probably a healthier way to go mentally.

A dwindling tradition

In the past, the amount election return information released on voting day has been contentious issue. Particularly after the 1980 election, when some thought early polling data kept people on the West Coast from voting, there has been an unwritten media rule about sharing that sensitive information. In a country with several major timezones, millions of voters, and ongoing concerns about getting out the vote, a choice was made: “… the networks promised not to use their exit polls to project the race in a given state until polls had closed there. In the years that followed, other news organizations that had not been subject to the same political pressure — radio stations, newspapers, wire services, cable networks and websites — nonetheless accepted it as a controlling precedent,” writes Sasha Issenberg on Slate.com.

But now media companies are bucking that unwritten rule. In the interest of feeding the public’s desire for information (and increasing page views), and calling malarky on the paternalistic idea that we can’t handle the information, real-time election results will be at least part of the story on Election Day.

It’s there if you want to know

The info is already out there: people in the campaigns — including candidates and super PACs — have the play-by-play information that’s hidden from regular voters. How do they get it? According to Slate, it’s a “… combination of analytics and active tracking of turnout across preselected precincts to produce rolling projections of how many votes they have won as the ballots are cast. They have found this method to be uncannily accurate at matching the ultimate vote count.”

So the information is out there, and the veil is being lifted. Votecastr “… plans real-time projections of presidential and Senate races in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It plans to publish a map and tables of its projected results on Slate, the online newsmagazine,” according to the New York Times.

With as many as one-third of voters casting their ballots early, and little proof that more information changes voting habits, get ready for “election return night” to turn into “election return morning, noon, and night.”

I guess we’ll see how that turns out, and if more is truly better.

Throwback Thursday… Voting Booths Were a Radical 19th Century Reform to Stop Election Fraud

Voting booths aren’t spaces that voters give much thought: you’re in, you vote, you’re out. That’s how it’s meant to be. They are designed for quick exits; one 19th century law stipulated an eight-minute limit for booth use, if all were occupied. But their unobtrusive nature is a relic of a major controversy in American democracy. When the U.S. made the controversial switch to a secret ballot, we needed a place to cast them.

Back in the 19th century, election day in America worked differently than it does now—there was even more drama, if you can believe that in 2016. There were no official ballots; political parties would print their own “party tickets.” Some states had standardized printing rules, but in some places voters could write down the names of whoever they wanted to vote for a hand that piece of paper in. Kentucky voted by voice almost to the end of the 1800s.

When parties printed up their tickets, each ballot listed the party’s candidates for all the seats at stake. Most voters accepted the pre-selected slate, rather than the candidates that most impressed them. There were measures one could take against an undesirable candidate, though, like physically cutting his name out of the party ticket.

drawing

Polling places might be set up in private homes or “sodhouse saloons”—usually there was some separation between the election officials and the crowd of voters, but there was no privacy for voters. Partisans would corral people to the polls to cast their party tickets and keep other parties’ voters away from the polls—using fists, knives, guns…or any other effective means. Voting could mean risking your life: in the mid-1800s, 89 people died trying to get to the polls.

By the 1880s, ballot reformers were looking for a new way to run elections, one that would wrench some control away from parties and limit vote buying and other fraudulent practices. They found it in Australia.

Since the 1850s, Australian states had been pioneering a different method of electing leaders—they let people vote in secret. This system used official ballots and provided space for people to vote without anyone knowing who they had chosen. With no way of verifying who a voter had actually cast his ballot for, parties had less power to coerce or bribe people to choose their slate. After the close and contentious election of 1884, when Grover Cleveland won New York—then allocated the most electoral votes of any state—by just over 1,000 votes, American states started seeing the appeal. In 1888, Massachusetts was the first state to adopt the “Australian ballot” system, but it was followed quickly by Indiana, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Washington, New York, and other states across the country.

Under these new systems, states had to provide votes with voting booths and figure out what those should look like. One county in Ohio, for instance, considered buying pre-made iron booths, before settling on cheaper wooden stalls. Often, the ballot reform laws specified in detail what voting booths should look like. New York’s law required at least one voting booth, three feet square, with wall six feet high, for every 50 voters in a district. The booths had to have four sides, with the front working as a door, and a shelf “at a convenient height for writing” that was to be stocked with “pens, ink, blotting paper, and pencils.”

Over the next century, states tweaked the design of their voting booths little by little. Sometimes, the changes were meant to accommodate new technologies. In New York, with its giant lever machines, for instance, booths were expansive, and usually built against the wall. As electronic voting system were developed, machine manufacturers started designed bespoke booths to fit their particular machines.

Some of the changes in booth design were just meant to make set-up easier and simpler. By the middle of the 20th century, it was more common for booths to be fronted by curtains than heavy wooden doors. By the 1980s, freestanding, metal stations had come into vogue. Each state developed its own quirky requirements. “New Hampshire had an archaic state law that the booths’ curtains had to extend down to the ankle,” says Hollister Bundy, who works at Inclusion Solutions, a company that sells election booth. Most states were happy to have shorter curtains, reaching down about the height of a person’s thigh, so for many years there was one curtain for New Hampshire voting booths and one curtain for any other state that wanted it. (The state has since changed the law.)

Today, one of the primary concerns for the designers of voting booths is making sure there are accessible options that meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Help America Vote Act, passed after the election controversy of 2000. Other than that, there’s no centralized requirement for voting booth design: each state has its own rules, and often it’s up to county clerks and other election officials to make sure voters have a place to vote—in private.

Florida Court Strikes Down ‘Obscene’ Vote-By-Mail Law After Democrats Sue

A court in Tallahassee struck down Florida’s policy of throwing out absentee ballots when the voter’s signature doesn’t exactly match the one the state has on file. The Sunday night ruling sided with the Florida Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee and declared the policy unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker explained that the state was using a “crazy quilt of conflicting and diverging procedures” that allowed local officials who “lack formal handwriting-comparison training or education” to decide whose signature was valid and whose ballot should be thrown away.

“This Court knows disenfranchisement when it sees it and it is obscene,” he wrote.

The court also blasted the state for failing to offer voters any way to fix their ballot if their signature was in question, even though they offered this safety net to voters who simply forgot to sign their ballot at all.

“The State of Florida has categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters arguably for no reason other than they have poor handwriting or their handwriting has changed over time.”

“It is illogical, irrational, and patently bizarre for the State of Florida to withhold the opportunity to cure from mis-matched signature voters while providing that same opportunity to no-signature voters,” Judge Walker wrote. “In doing so, the State of Florida has categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters arguably for no reason other than they have poor handwriting or their handwriting has changed over time.”

The court also waved away the state’s argument that allowing voters to fix their signatures would be too expensive and burdensome, writing: “Even assuming that it would be an administrative inconvenience — and the evidence shows it is not — that interest cannot justify stripping Florida voters of their fundamental right to vote and to have their votes counted.”

If polls remain tight in the key swing state, this ruling could have a major impact on election results. More than 2.3 million people voted by mail in Florida in 2012, and about 1 percent of those ballots were rejected that year. A study by the University of Florida found that Democrats were much more likely to have their ballot rejected than Republicans.

Court Extends Florida’s Voter Registration Deadline After Hurricane Matthew

A federal judge has given Democrats a partial victory in the presidential battleground of Florida, extending the state’s voter registration deadline one day and agreeing to consider a longer extension in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

The initial deadline was Tuesday, but Florida Democrats, with the support of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, argued that would-be voters deserved more time. Republican Gov. Rick Scott last week urged 1.5 million residents to evacuate as the storm approached the southeastern United States.

District Judge Mark Walker issued a temporary order Monday afternoon extending the deadline through the close of business Wednesday. He set a hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. for arguments for a longer extension. Judges grant temporary restraining orders in cases where a petitioner demonstrates irreparable harm would occur if the court took no action. The orders often portend victory once a judge considers the merits of the case.

Clinton had called on Scott, before the suit was filed, to extend the deadline himself using his emergency authority. The governor declined, saying Floridians “had enough time to register” before the Oct. 6 evacuation orders.

Though the case involves the highest stakes in a perennial presidential battleground, the judge called it “poppycock” to claim that “the issue of extending the voter registration deadline is about politics.” The case, he wrote, “is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register to have their votes counted.”

The case comes as the two presidential campaigns try to resume their full activities in Florida and North Carolina, the two battlegrounds where Matthew left fatalities and wracked widespread damage.

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was in western North Carolina on Monday, while Clinton was planning to visit south Florida on Tuesday alongside former Vice President Al Gore. GOP hopeful Donald Trump was also to campaign in Florida the next two days with stops in three cities that are usually GOP strongholds. And former President Bill Clinton has his own Florida schedule Tuesday on his wife’s behalf.

The voter registration dispute is key since both campaigns acknowledge that the storm’s interruptions could yield even marginal effects on voter turnout efforts. North Carolina and Florida remain close, even as Clinton appears to be taking a commanding national lead. Going days without door-knocking and phone-banking around Fayetteville, North Carolina, or registering voters around Jacksonville, Florida, is enough to make Republican and Democratic aides nervous.

“The time for politics will come back, and it will just have to take care of itself,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, which together with the Republican National Committee leadsvoter turnout efforts for Trump and the rest of the GOP slate.

Woodhouse said GOP campaign offices remained closed in Fayetteville, Greenville and Wilmington.

In his first public campaign appearance since Sunday’s second presidential debate, Pence told a Charlotte crowd that eastern North Carolinians are “inspiring” for their handling of the hurricane. Pence also praised Trump for apologizing after the Friday disclosure of a 2005 NBC video that captured the real estate billionaire making predatory comments about women.

Florida’s voter registration deadline applies to both in-person registration and postmarks for mailed forms.

The initial petition argued that Matthew constituted a “daunting” and “life-threatening obstacle” to registration. Scott’s office said earlier Monday that the governor’s legal advisers were reviewing the suit.

In 2004, then-Gov. Jeb Bush used emergency authority to allow several Florida counties to delay the start of early voting after Hurricane Charley.

Clinton aides declined comment on the suit earlier Monday, but maintain that under normal circumstances, they would have registered tens of thousands of Florida residents in the final five days of registration. President Barack Obama won the state in 2012 by fewer than 75,000 votes out of more than 8.4 million cast. Both Republicans and Democrats have intensified their voter registration efforts since.

Democrats note that South Carolina, another GOP-controlled state, extended its original Oct. 7 deadline to acceptregistration forms postmarked no later than Tuesday.

Hurricane Matthew drifted farther north than projected when Scott ordered evacuations, leaving south Florida’sheavily Democratic counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — relatively unscathed. Campaign activities there have resumed, with Clinton aides saying only a handful of their 65 offices around the state remained closed Monday, all of them in more Republican north Florida.

North Carolina’s voter registration deadline is Friday, but the state also has same-day registration on Election Day.

New Poll Shows 70% of Floridians Support Medical Marijuana Amendment

A medical marijuana ballot initiative continues to enjoy strong support from Floridians.

A Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday shows 70 percent of likely Florida voters said they supported the 2016 ballot initiative. That’s up from a similar survey conducted in March, which found 65 percent of voters said they supported the ballot initiative.

The 2016 ballot initiative allows individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician to use medical marijuana. It also calls on the Department of Health to register and regulate centers to produce and distribute marijuana and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers.

The amendment defines a debilitative condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

A similar initiative received 58 percent support in 2014, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law.

The poll found strong support across most demographics, including 81 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independent voters, and 55 percent of Republicans.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 744 likely voters between Sept. 4 and Sept. 6. The survey had a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

Floridians Overwhelmingly Support Solar In Tuesday Vote

Solar advocates finally got a win in the Sunshine State on Tuesday, as voters approved a measure to get rid of property taxes on solar equipment.

With more than 1,970,000 Floridians checking ‘yes,’ the measure, known as Amendment 4, received more support than the state’s two U.S. Senate primary winners, Marco Rubio (R) and Patrick Murphy (D), combined.

It’s not surprising that the measure passed, although the overwhelming support was a morale boost for the industry, which has faced hurdles in Florida. Amendment 4 received 72 percent approval overall — and needed only 60 percent to pass.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses” — Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R)

The amendment was the culmination of a bipartisan effort from the state legislature to make solar more affordable, especially for big box stores and for solar companies that offer leased equipment. While homeowners themselves were already exempt from paying property tax on solar equipment that they owned, businesses were on the hook.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses,” State Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R) said in a statement. “Floridians will benefit from lower taxes, reduced energy costs and the increased security of a diversified energy portfolio.”

Rodrigues cosponsored the bill putting the amendment on the ballot, along with fellow state representatives Lori Berman (D) and Dwight Dudley (D). The amendment had broad support from solar industry groups, environmental groups, and traditional business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the Florida Retail Federation. The amendment will now go back to the legislature to be enacted into law.

“With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved.” — Ragan Dickens, Walmart

Supporters are hoping the tax break will spur companies such as Walmart, IKEA, and Costco, which have made massive investments in solar elsewhere in the country, to install solar panels on their Florida stores. It will also allow solar leasing companies such as SolarCity to improve their margins.

“While we don’t have any onsite solar installations at our stores in Florida right now, we’re always looking at opportunities to add solar at stores across the country where it makes economic sense,” said Ragan Dickens, director of sustainability communications for Walmart. “With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved, and we’ll certainly evaluate our opportunities there.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group, Florida has the third-most potential for solar in the country, but it is only 14th in amount of installed solar — even while installing 90 percent more solar in the past year. Massachusetts, Colorado, and North Carolina all have more installed solar.

“It’s clear Floridians want better access to affordable, clean energy options and this vote is a significant step in the right direction,” SEIA vice president Sean Gallagher said in a statement. “Now it’s time to keep the momentum going. To ensure a bright solar future for Florida, customers should vote NO on Amendment 1, the anti-solar amendment that will be on Florida ballots this November.”

Amendment 1 was certainly the dark cloud on the horizon during the Tuesday’s Amendment 4 party.

If Amendment 1 passes, it will prohibit Floridians from selling their electricity to third parties. In effect, it would do away with Floridians’ rights to lease solar panels, since, in that situation, the owner of the panels generally sells the electricity to the homeowner. Leasing solar systems has been an effective and popular way to allow homeowners to go solar without paying for the system up front.

Opponents have argued that the measure is designed to limit rooftop solar in Florida, and, as written, is intentionally confusing to voters, who might not understand what they are voting for.

“[Tuesday’s vote] is a big step forward for Florida, removing a longtime barrier to solar adoption, and the wide margin shows voters want rooftop solar,” said Will Craven, a spokesman for SolarCity. “But Amendment 1 in November could be three steps back, as it aims to trick these voters into supporting something that sounds pro solar, but would actually put a thriving solar industry further out of reach. Only monopoly utilities will benefit from a Yes on 1 vote, everyone else will lose.”

The state Supreme Court ruled against that argument in March and allowed the measure to go to voters during the general election.

Amendment 1 will also face a 60 percent threshold for approval, but there is expected to be a significant media campaign encouraging people to vote yes on 1.

How to Register and Vote Early in Florida Before the Presidential Election

On November 8th, it will be time to decide a new President of the United States. If you’re not registered to vote, now’s the time to make sure you’re ready when it comes time to visit the polls. Here’s all the information you need to get it done.

  • Florida: October 11, 2016

You can find more deadlines for things like absentee voting and early in-person registration for your state at the U.S. Vote Foundation’s website here. Some states allow you to register all the way up until Election Day, while others will cut you off at least a month early. However, you’re better off registering as early as possible, as this also makes you prepared for early and/or absentee voting, which is much more convenient.

Every state has different rules for voter registration. Fortunately, Vote.org, run by non-profit advocacy group Long Distance Voter makes deciphering those rules pretty straightforward. Follow these steps:

  1. Head to the Register to Vote page on Vote.org here.
  2. Scroll to the section labeled “Jump directly to your state.”
  3. Scroll down to read the registration guide with information on the requirements and deadlines for your state.
  4. When you’re ready, fill out the form at the top of the page. This will direct you to your state’s online registration, where available, or the forms you need to fill out for mail-in registration.

If you’re concerned about handing over your data to a third-party agency, you can read Vote.org’s privacy policy here. Most of the information you’ll use to register will be part of a public voter database anyway, and Vote.org says they delete private information like your driver’s license number immediately after it’s used to determine where you need to register. Still, if you’d rather avoid the third party, you can look up your state’s registration information from the United States Election Assistance Commission here, but Vote.org is much simpler.

If you already voted in Florida’s primary, you should still be registered. You can also use Vote.org to check your registration status if you’re not sure. It can’t hurt to double check, especially if you have moved since the primary or will move before the general election in November. The Brennan Center for Justice has a guide for voting after a move if you plan to relocate prior to the election.

The Difference Between Absentee and Early Voting

Once you’re registered to vote, you can look into absentee ballots or early in-person voting. Both of these methods let you cast your vote for the candidates you want without having to spend hours in line on Election Day. This makes voting super convenient and if you’re already looking into how to vote, you may as well get started on this now. Here’s what these two categories of voting mean:

  • Absentee Ballots: Absentee ballots are mail-in forms that allow voters to cast their votes before election day. Currently, all 50 states will send out absentee ballot forms to voters who request one, however 20 states require voters to provide an excuse for why they can’t vote on election day. You can request an absentee ballot as soon as you’re registered, though they won’t be sent out until the ballots are finalized. Again, you can check Vote.org for details on absentee voting in Florida.
  • Early Voting: 37 states allow you to show up in person to vote early, as long as you’re registered. No excuse is required for any of these states. The three states that use all-mail voting (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) can also be considered “early voting,” since they already allow you to mail in your ballots ahead of time. You can find the early voting schedule for your state, as well as links to your local voting offices to find out where to vote early at Vote.org’s Early Voting Calendar here.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has created a tool here that shows which states support which forms of absentee or early voting. Most states support both, so you have some options in how to cast your vote. We highly recommend getting your votes in early, as you can avoid long lines and the chaos of taking off work on the day when everyone else is rushing to the polls.

For the 2016 election, it’s easier than ever to register and get your vote in early. Both major political parties are holding their conventions in July to determine their presidential nominees. Once that happens, you can expect both parties (as well as any independents) to kick their campaigns up a notch, so it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Florida Will Vote This Year On Measure That Would Block Solar Leasing In The State

A measure that opponents say is intentionally confusing and will stifle solar growth was given the go-ahead by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday. It will appear on the Florida ballot in November.

Environmental and solar advocates challenged the measure, titled, “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” saying that it does not reflect any choice and does not create new rights. Sponsored by utility companies and other groups tied to the Koch brothers, the measure will prevent people from selling their electricity to third parties. This would effectively prevent solar leasing in the state, because under that system, an owner — usually a solar company — installs panels at a home and then sells the generated electricity back to the homeowner.

“This amendment hoodwinks voters by giving the impression that it will encourage the use of rooftop solar when, in fact, it would do the opposite,” Earthjustice attorney David Guest told the News Service of Florida.

The measure was proposed by a group called Consumers for Smart Solar, which has already spent nearly half a million dollars just getting the it on the ballot. A competing measure, which would have reduced barriers to rooftop solar, did not receive enough signatures to make the ballot.

“Florida families and businesses should be able to put the Sunshine State’s plentiful solar resource to work reducing bills, driving energy innovation and building healthier communities,” said Scott Thomasson from Vote Solar, a national non-profit solar advocacy organization. “The state should be reducing obstacles for consumers who want to invest in affordable solar, but instead this amendment adds more barriers.”

In a scathing dissent, Justice Barbara J. Pariente warned Floridians about the measure’s confusing language.

“Let the pro-solar energy consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo,” Pariente wrote. “The ballot title is affirmatively misleading by its focus on ‘Solar Energy Choice,’ when no real choice exists for those who favor expansion of solar energy.”

She also pointed out that the measure takes pains to define even commonplace words such as “consumer,” but does not define “subsidy,” which is used in a misleading and unsubstantiated way in the measure. She said the concerns over solar customers shifting costs to other, non-solar customers were “speculative and not borne out in any present reality.”

“It is shameful that the utilities would go so far, and spend millions to manipulate and deceive their own customers,” Stephen Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said in a statement. “We will absolutely continue to shine a light on their dirty tricks and hope that the voters of Florida will see their ballot initiative for what is it: a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a sham designed to keep more money in the power companies pockets.”

All four justices who supported the measure’s inclusion were Republican nominees to the court. Two dissenting justices were nominated by a Democratic governor and the third, Pariente, has been nominated by both a Democrat and a Republican.