The following is an opinion-editorial piece. Views expressed in this piece belong solely to the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Crimson or any other organization.

Brianna Forté | Copy Editor

Hopefully by the time you are reading this, you’ve seen countless posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat reminding you of the importance to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

I’m sure you are tired of hearing the phrase, “your vote matters.” With the current political and environmental state of our country, and world, it is tempting to feel discouraged and insignificant. On top of that, as college students struggling to find our path while adjusting to COVID-19 protocols, it’s hard to emotionally invest and donate time towards educating ourselves on the candidates for this upcoming election.

As a bisexual female in STEM majoring in marine biology and minoring in Communications, my values are centered around environmental conservation and social equality. I’m here to share my choices on the general election ballot for Florida District 309 in the upcoming election, based off these values. 

I am by no means an expert, and of course these are solely my opinions being represented, not Florida Tech’s or The Crimson’s. But, I hope that if I share these choices as a cheat sheet, it will serve as a guide for the undecided or unmotivated college students to help them vote. Because truly, your vote matters.

President and Vice President

First things first, the presidential candidates. If you are voting for Donald Trump, you do not have your best interests in mind. Trump’s platform for the environment is basically nonexistent. According to The New York Times, President Trump has officially reversed 70 environmental rules and regulations during the four years he’s been in office and is in the process of 26 additional rollbacks. Trump has also formally started to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, “in which 195 signatories set voluntary limits on greenhouse gas emissions,” explained National Geographic. Regardless of the economic policies that provide an appeal for some Trump supporters, there is no wealth to gain from the deterioration of the state of our environment. Climate change is real, as the evidence from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration proves. It’s a dire issue, and the fact that Trump refuses to provide a platform to effectively regulate environmental threats will affect the quality of life for our entire generation.

In addition to Trump’s bismal platform for the environment, Trump represents the regression back to inequality within America. The main values that Trump embodies include racism, sexism, and homophobia. At the first presidential debate Trump was asked to simply condemn white supremacists, and his response was to tell a far-right, neo-facist, male-only group known as the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” Since the beginning of Trump’s term, his administration has worked to undermine the civil and human rights our nation had set in place. These actions from 2017 until now are outlined by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and require a considerable amount of scrolling to read through. If you identify as a minority, or simply have a human connection for the people that we share this country with, then you should feel obligated to protect people’s rights by not voting for Trump. 

While Joe Biden is not the optimal democratic candidate, the Biden/Harris ticket is still the best option between the two choices. And I only acknowledge the two main candidates because although our two party system is flawed, a vote for any third party candidate is essentially throwing your vote away. Biden has a completely comprehensive environmental platform and acknowledges and has a platform for racial inequality and civil rights.

According to National Geographic, Biden’s platform includes protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling, promising to stop keystone pipelines, favoring the end of fossil fuel subsidies, planning to rejoin the Paris Agreement, and outlining strategies to achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050. Having a comprehensive plan is vital to ensuring a safe future, where every living organism on this planet is better off. Science is absolutely critical for the progress of our planet, and Biden is the first president to ever be backed by the Scientific American in response to his opposing candidate’s complete disregard for science in relation to COVID-19, health care, and climate change. In the statement released by the Scientific American it is stated that, “Joe Biden, in contrast, comes prepared with plans to control COVID-19, improve health care, reduce carbon emissions and restore the role of legitimate science in policy making.”

In addition to Biden’s platform for environmental conservation, Biden acknowledges the systemic racism within our country and has proved his commitment to reforming the criminal justice system. According to the Los Angeles Times, Biden plans to invest in programs that increase home ownership among families of color, eliminate racially discriminatory zoning ordinances, and although he doesn’t support defunding the police he has called for greater accountability among police officers who use deadly force along with better training. In addition to the platform Biden has created to address racism within this country, he is also endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign. President of the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David, said that Biden’s, “dedication to advancing LGBTQ equality, even when it was unpopular to do so, has pushed our country and our movement forward.” 

As a person whose rights in regards to birth control and sexual orientation are endangered by the possibility of another four years of the Trump administration, I urge my classmates to consider the rights that are at stake in the presidential election. In addition to civil rights, which are critical, this election will determine how our country will move forward during this climate emergency.

Representative in Congress District 8

In addition to the presidential election, the other federal election on the Florida District 309 ballot is for the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the Ballot Ready, the members of the U.S. House of Representatives are responsible for beginning the legislation process, offering amendments, and serving on committees.

For Florida’s 8th Congressional District the two candidates are Bill Posey and Jim Kennedy. Bill Posey is the incumbent, and is endorsed by the Florida Right to Life, the National Rifle Association, and Donald Trump. Posey’s platform according to his website, states that he’s against the Green New Deal, doesn’t have any platform centered around environmental conservation, and is mainly focused on increasing national security. Posey has voted yes to banning federal health coverage that includes abortion according to On The Issues.

Meanwhile, Jim Kennedy has demonstrated belief in environmental reform including supporting companies that make an effort to be environmentally conscious and supporting research into technologies that can make a difference. Kennedy also has a comprehensive platform for educational reform, reproductive rights, gun regulation (without revoking the right to possess firearms), and criminal justice reform.  

Posey has served as a representative in congress since 2013, and it is time for Florida’s 8th Congressional District to have a representative that values the younger generation and the earth they’re inheriting while also prioritizing civil rights. 

State Senator District 17

As important as it is to be informed about the presidential and congressional candidates, this upcoming election does not just revolve around your vote for federal candidates. In fact, your vote will have the most direct impact on the local level. This includes the state and local candidates. 

First up on the ballot are the candidates for the Florida Senator for District 17. According to the website Ballot Ready, the members of the Florida State Senate are responsible for passing bills on public policy matters, setting levels for state spending, raising and lowering taxes, and voting to uphold or override gubernatorial vetoes.

For Florida’s State Senate for District 17, the two candidates are Debbie Mayfield and Scot Fretwell. Mayfield’s website does not display her platform, but she is endorsed by the Florida Right to Life. According to Ballotpedia, she has sponsored a bill that would prohibit physicians from performing an abortion for a minor unless specific requirements are satisfied. 

Unlike Mayfield’s platform, Fretwell has a clear outline of his policies on his website. Fretwell’s platform includes multiple approaches to protecting the environment, including proposing legislation that requires all of Florida’s energy suppliers to convert to 100 percent renewable power sources by the year 2040, establishing a bottle return system in Florida, and committing Florida to the Paris Climate Accord. Fretwell also acknowledges systemic racism within the United States and has a strong platform for Justice and Police Reform. According to Fretwell’s website he wants to legislate the police reforms proposed by #8cantwait, legalize recreational marijuana and “expunge the records of anyone who was arrested for non-violent drug charges involving the possession of marijuana,”, and require that all law enforcement officers be trained in racial sensitivity and de-escalation techniques. Fretwell has a clear strategy for improving Florida’s environment, economy, and criminal justice.

State Representative District 53

Next up on the ballot for state elections are the candidates for the Florida House of Representatives for District 53. According to the website Ballot Ready, the members of the Florida House of Representatives are responsible for passing bills on public policy matters, setting levels for state spending, raising and lowering taxes, and voting to uphold or override gubernatorial vetoes. The two candidates are Randy Fine and Phil Moore.

Fine was elected as the Florida State House of Representatives in 2016, but does not have a platform or website to refer to. His list of sponsored bills can be viewed here. Although he is endorsed by the Florida Right to Life and the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Moore’s platform and beliefs are easily through his website, where he outlines his priorities on economy, education, environment, equality, immigration, healthcare, gun responsibility, and small government. He’s endorsed by Florida Planned Parenthood, the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, Sierra Club Florida Chapter, and Everytown for Gun Safety. Moore is a huge proponent of civil rights, supports climate change research and conversion to renewable energy, and believes in background checks in order to purchase guns. 

Moore has a vision that will improve Florida’s quality of life for our generation, and again is the obvious choice when taking into account civil rights and environmental conservation. Which again, I cannot stress the importance of enough. 

Sheriff

The position for Brevard County Sheriff is an opportunity for young constituents to voice their support for criminal justice reform and Black Lives Matter, as these two candidates represent completely opposing values. According to the website Ballot Ready, the Brevard County Sheriff is the chief law enforcement official of the county. The two candidates are incumbent Wayne Ivey and challenger Alton Edmond.

In an article published by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism organization about criminal justice, it is explained how this race between Ivey and Edmond embody the country’s conflict between Trump and Black Lives Matter. Ivey ran unopposed in 2016 and as Brevard County Sheriff publishes dehumanizing videos like the “Wheel of Fugitive” and “Fishing for Fugitives”, while also refusing to release security footage of the wrongful death of Black military veteran Gregory Edwards in 2018 according to Florida Today. Edmond is a Black former public defender who’s running on a platform for criminal justice reform. According to the article by The Marshall Project, Edmond promises to “buy body cameras for deputies, increase diversity among top staff, ban the neck restraint tactic used by the police who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, and stop making viral videos about suspects.”

Ivey has appeared alongside President Trump at campaign rallies, and clearly embodies the racism rampant in today’s America. As a college student striving for equality for my Black classmates and friends, I am voting for Edmond. 

Board of County Commissioners District 3

Among local elections, the Board of County Commissioners for District 3 is responsible for enacting local ordinances. The two candidates are incumbent John Tobia and challenger Sanjay Patel.

Tobia is Brevard County’s current commissioner for District 3, but does not have an available website detailing his platform or what he has accomplished during his time as County Commissioner, but does have a Facebook page. Patel’s website details his plan for local environmental policies including “migrating country infrastructure to greener and more sustainable alternatives” and also “foster sustainable growth by making decisions based on science that protect our lagoon and environmentally endangered lands.” Patel also prioritizes COVID-19 recovery efforts, supporting local businesses, and expanding affordable housing and public transportation.

As someone who was introduced to the Brevard County community four years ago, I have connected with this beautiful place. I believe that Brevard’s nature deserves to be protected along with the people who compose this diverse community, which is why I am voting for Patel.

Soil and Water Conservation District Group 1

Next for local elections is the race for Soil and Water Conservation District Group 1. This position is part of a board that according to Ballot Ready, is responsible for overseeing soil and watersheds within the district. The two candidates are Henry “Boo” Minneboo and Adam Tritt.

In both a Florida Today article and a Hometown News article, incumbent Minneboo was not reached at the time to make a comment. Tritt however provided statements to both news outlets. In the Hometown News article he promised to make decisions on the basis of science and data instead of economic efficiency, and stated that “if we are to move into a future that is sustainable economically and ecologically, we need to do what needs to be done to protect our tourism and agricultural industries, both, while maintaining the beauty and uniqueness of Brevard County’s lands and waters.”

As a firm believer in science and the preservation of the environment, I support Tritt for Soil and Water Conservation District Group 1.

West Melbourne City Council

Finally, the election for West Melbourne City Council has four candidates vying for three positions. According to Ballot Ready, this council serves as the municipality’s governing body and votes on ordinances and policies, and often is in charge of hiring a city manager. The four candidates for this position are incumbent Pat Bentley, Mathew Grigajitis, Daniel McDow, and Stephan Phrampus.

Hometown News published an article profiling the four candidates. Daniel McDow is endorsed by the Sierra Club Florida Chapter, and vows to “initiate an eco-friendly roadmap.” Besides voting for McDow, I don’t believe any of the other three candidates have a strong platform that motivated me to vote for them.

To Recap

If you have stuck with me this long, thank you for taking the time to get educated on your candidates. To recap, I’m voting for Biden/Harris for the president and vice president, Jim Kennedy for Representative in Congress District 8, Scot Fretwell for State Senator District 17, Phil Moore for State Representative District 53, Alton Edmond for Sheriff, Sanjay Patel for Board of County Commissioners District 3, Adam Tritt for Soil and Water Conservation District Group 1, and Daniel McDow for West Melbourne City Council. 

If you have a different ballot, you can compare all of your candidates by typing in your address in the website BallotReady.org. Please vote, and please remain educated upon what is occurring in politics. Our country is changing and it needs the younger generation to maintain momentum in movements such as climate change, racial equity, LGBTQ+ rights, gun protection, and reproductive rights.

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