Students get involved in Florida primaries


photo by Nadia Knoblauch

Political signs for state representative and county commissioner candidates stand on the side of Lockwood Blvd. In order to show good faith and abide by state law, all candidates’ signs must be removed within 30 days of being elected to office, being eliminated from the race or withdrawing their candidacy.

“We have a first-time voter!”

Met with claps and cheers, senior Cat Bunn stepped into the Riverside Park Center with one goal in mind: filling out her first ballot, an important step into her adult life.

“This primary election was the first election I was able to vote in,” Bunn said. “In local elections like this, every vote really does count, it can come down to candidates winning by only a few hundred votes.” 

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, primary elections closed across the state of Florida, where eligible students were able to vote for the school board, senate, congressional seats, judges, county commissioners and governor races, which were narrowed down for each political party. Florida is a closed primary state, meaning that people may only vote for candidates in their registered parties.

Before entering the polling booths, researching candidates helps voters to choose which ones will best protect their values and ideals. As a first-time voter, Bunn knew she wanted to help elect the politicians that would help change the community for the better, and background research helped her in that selection process. 

“I researched each candidate that was on the Democratic side of the ballot and what they were promising, what their past looked like and how they would go through with these promises,” Bunn said. “I am really passionate about affordable housing, abortion rights and equality, so after researching certain candidates, I realized who was going to do a good job at supporting that and who wouldn’t.” 

As most high school students are not yet eligible to vote, clubs like the Young Democrats work to help educate students about local politics and the importance of voting.

“While the national elections get most of the headlines, our day-to-day lives, and especially education, is focused on local elections,” Young Democrats vice president Aidan Priore said. “To be knowledgeable about what is going on and voting for what you believe plays a much bigger role in the future lives of Florida and Oviedo citizens, as these people are making laws and rules directly to us.”

The club’s first meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25 was focused on the results of the primaries and how they could help candidates for the general election in November. Young Democrats also work with the Seminole County Democratic Party, or “Sem Dems,” where they help encourage students to vote and even meet with candidates, like Autumn Garrick, who won in the primaries for School Board District 5.

“As students, the school board affects our daily life, so getting the right people in those positions is essential,” Priore said. “Meeting candidates makes sure we are picking the people who we believe are right for us.”

Other clubs, like the Young Republicans, also work to encourage political awareness, but with a wider lens.

“We address problems in the bigger picture. Most of the time that means learning what the Republican viewpoint would be on certain topics,” Young Republicans president Preston Rupert said.

While students could join either club to increase their knowledge of local politicians, students also use social media as a way to communicate information about candidates and important dates and to further encourage their peers to get out and vote.

“I reposted a lot of stuff on social media, like where to go vote and how to get a ride to vote,” Bunn said. “I felt the need to go help because these candidates really could change the way things run in Florida. I’d really love to see everyone get out and vote so we can see more change, hopefully for the better.”

Overall, the primary elections have set the stage for the upcoming general election, and there will be stress on the issues of inflation, gun control, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ stances and parental rights in the classroom. The major takeaways from the election were the primary victories of Val Demings, former Orlando police chief who won the democratic vote for the United States Senate, and Charlie Crist, former Republican governor who now won in the democratic primary. Demings will face off current Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, with the two taking opposite stances on gun control and parent vs. teacher rights. Crist will run against current Governor Ron DeSantis, who has grabbed national attention due to his defense of former president Donald Trump, and his far-right beliefs on mask mandates, gun control and abortion access.

Election day for the Florida general races will be on Nov. 8, and information on early voting will be available after Oct. 9.

Resources for voting and candidates: Early Voting and Secure Ballot Intake, Candidate Listings, Seminole County Democratic Party, Seminole County Republican Party, Where Do I Vote?