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The Challenges Voters, Candidates Faced This Primary Election

A sign is placed on a sidewalk corner. It reads, "Precinct 2502, 1303, 2504, 2506." Below those words is a big arrow pointing to the left. "Vote here," is written on the arrow. Below is an illustration of an American flag. Below the flag are the words, "Polls are open 7:00 - 7:00."
Robbie Gaffney
Yesterday, voters braved the deadly coronavirus pandemic to cast their ballot in the primary election.

Campaigning and voting during the primary election looked different this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Outside the Palmer Munroe Teen Center off Jackson Bluff Road, Grant Steans has just cast his ballot. The Florida A & M University student says local elections like this one are essential.

"These are the people that affect our lives directly from day to day, when we're going to work, and how laws in the city get made so you know it's important—got to make sure that my voice is heard," Steans says.

Voting this year was a challenge for many. More than 2-million people opted for mail-in ballots—in many cases because of concerns about the coronavirus. At polling places, things looked different too—hand sanitizer was available on tables, and polls workers wore masks. But Steans says casting your vote is worth the challenges.

"I know it feels like a lot of times how the system is not built to represent us and to be honest in a lot of ways, it's not. But it's the system that we live in now, and the only way to change the system is to act within the system," Steans says.

Voters aren't alone in the difficulties they faced during the primary. Benjamin Alexander Thaddeus John Horbowy ran for state senator of district three. It's the seat currently held by term-limited Democratic Senator Bill Montford. Horbowy lost the Republican primary contest for the position Tuesday to Marva Harris Preston, who took nearly 80% of the vote. She'll face off in the general election against current Democratic state Representative Loranne Ausley. Horbowy says he doesn't want to use the outbreak as an excuse but says he believes it did contribute to his low numbers at the polls.

"I wasn't able to knock on doors. I wasn't able to be in public, to gather signatures, and when I was in public, people were nervous to come around my table," Horbowy says.

He created daily vlogs to try to boost awareness of his campaign. But Horbowy says he experienced problems with social media.

"Twitter pulls up a tweet from a year and a half ago and says you violated community standards, so you are on 48-hour lockdown. So, for the past two days, I couldn't tweet, and that was an important tool [for] a grassroots conservative candidate."

Lynette Halter ran for Tallahassee City Commission Seat Two. Halter says she didn't have the money for online advertisements, so she chose to knock on doors—but kept social distancing in mind.

"I did not want to disturb people. I would just leave my card so they'd know somebody had been there and I walked even faster. If I saw somebody, I told them what I was doing, so they didn't think I was cas[ing] the neighborhood or something. But it was extremely difficult," Halter says.

Halter explains she wore a mask when going out and stayed six feet away from people when talking to them. She got less than five percent of the vote, losing to incumbent Curtis Richardson and newcomer Bill Schack. But Halter says she doesn't regret walking day after day.

"The people that I talked to when I started walking felt pretty hopeless until they saw somebody was trying to do something so I think we will hear more people speaking up and that's a good thing. If people feel like they can really make a change in Tallahassee—this is a great little town. They need to take it back."

The chance to make a change will come again in November during the general election. But so will many of the same challenges.