Twenty-five candidates are officially running for Tampa City Council and mayor, and it’s time to think about your choices. At the risk of overusing the Gasparilla pirate metaphor (and in the hopes of helping you remember), I want to make sure ye Tampa voters aRRRGh aware of three important Rs associated with the March 7 Tampa municipal election. It only takes a few minutes to make sure you’re ready to vote, but if you wait until the cannonball dust settles, you could run out of time.
The first R is Register. In Florida, you must be registered to vote at least 29 days before an election. If you live in Tampa and aren’t already registered to vote, visit VoteHillsborough.gov and do it no later than Feb. 6. If you’re a registered voter in Florida who has recently moved to Tampa, you can update your voter registration address any time.
You don’t have to wait until March 7 to vote. You have three choices — vote by mail, in-person early voting, and Election Day voting. Vote by mail has been the most popular option since 2015, which brings me to the second R — Request. If you’re a voter who regularly votes by mail, you should know that your last request has expired. New legislation requires you to submit a new request after every general election if you want to receive ballots in the mail.
For the City of Tampa election, the deadline to request vote by mail is Feb. 25 — but don’t wait that long! We start mailing ballots out Feb. 2, and I want you to have plenty of time to vote and get your ballot back to my office by the 7 p.m. March 7 deadline.
The third R is for Research. Take the time to find out if you’re eligible to vote in this election (you have to live in the city limits), to make sure you’re registered at your current address (see that first R), to see who’s running for office, and to plan when and how you’ll vote. The research is easy at VoteHillsborough.gov.
Year after year, pirates invade and attempt to take over the city. But every four years, the power rests with you — the voter — to have a say in the makeup of our local city government. I hope you use that power during this election, and every election.
Craig Latimer is the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.