Travel

Your Guide to the Midterm Election in South Florida This November

Everything you need to know to make sure your vote counts in 2022.

Engage Miami
Engage Miami
Engage Miami

The midterm elections are right around the corner, and it’s important to take a few minutes to look into what’s on the ballot and how to be sure you get your vote in so your voice is heard. While this particular election doesn’t have any citizen initiatives on the ballot, every office is up for election and by voting you have a say in who will be making decisions that could directly affect you in the coming years.

Did you know that in the 2018 governor’s race, current Governor Ron DeSantis defeated candidate Andrew Gillum by 32,468 votes? That may seem like a big number, but it breaks down to just .4% – that’s such a close race and proof that every vote truly makes a difference. South Florida and young voters are the two groups that turn out with lower voting rates than anyone else in the state and in 2018 only 63% of registered voters actually voted.

These midterm elections are super important as they will decide the balance of power in a split U.S. House and Senate. November’s election could lead to a new governor or new members of the Florida Cabinet, as well as new county commissioners or school board members-all really important positions of power that you should have a say in.

What’s on the ballot?

This November, in Florida we’re voting for Governor, U.S. Senator, Congressional races, and more. Every single seat for the Florida House, Florida Senate, and U.S. House are on this ballot. Due to a 2020 U.S. Census, the districts have been redrawn which means it’s time to vote within these new breakdowns.

Also, thanks to a term limit law that was voted into place back in 2012 regarding the Miami-Dade County Commission, very few current elected commissioners are eligible to run again, which means it’s time to elect a whole lot of new leadership county commission. These are the officials that will be in charge of local housing policy, county policing, climate adaptation, local infrastructure, and a $10 billion county budget.

On the ballot:

  • Governor: Rep. Charlie Crist (D); Incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)
  • Attorney General: Aramis Ayala (D); Incumbent Ashley Moody (R)
  • U.S. Senate: Rep. Val Demings (D); Incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R)
  • U.S. House: all 28 seats; Florida gained a seat in the House, as determined by population growth in the 2020 census.
  • State Senate: all 40 seats
  • State House: all 120 seats

Aside from voting for who will sit in our government offices, there are just a few constitutional amendments on the ballot this November. A big change from previous elections, none of these are citizen initiatives, but instead three amendments were placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. Two of them deal with taxes and the third one involves abolishing a commission that reviews the constitution. In order for these amendments to pass the ballot, they must get 60% approval from the voters.

Amendment 1:

Exempts improvements against flood damage from property assessments. This refers to when you make major changes to your home, those changes may affect the assessed value of your property-either to go up or down. Currently there are provisions in Florida’s constitution that allows the legislature to exempt wind damage property changes, or solar or renewable energy devices, from property assessments. Amendment one would allow for the same exemption for changes that protect property from flood damage.

A “YES” vote for this amendment allows the Florida Legislature to pass laws that would exempt flood resistance improvements from being considered in property value assessments. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.

A “NO” vote would mean nothing changes and the Florida Legislature cannot pass laws to exempt flood resistance improvements.

Amendment 2:

This amendment would get rid of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. So, here’s the deal. Every 20 years, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission has a meeting to propose provisions to revise all or part of the state’s constitution. It’s one of five ways the Florida Constitution can be changed (other ways are via state legislature, citizen initiative, a constitutional convention, and via the taxation and budget reform commission) and this amendment would remove that commission. In recent years, this particular group has been known to limit many citizen initiatives-which has put them under much fire.

A “YES” vote on this amendment eliminates the constitution revision commission, leaving four ways to amend the Florida Constitution.

A “NO” vote on this amendment leaves the FL CRC in place.

Amendment 3:

This amendment aims to provide an extra property tax exemption for public service workers. It would create a homestead exemption for many public service employees, including teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child welfare services professionals, and active duty members of the military and national guard. If passed, these homeowners would get an extra $50,000 exemption on property valued between $100,000 and $150,000.

A “YES” vote on Amendment 3 means you approve giving public service employees an extra exemption on property taxes.

A “NO” vote on Amendment 3 means you do not approve giving public service employees an extra exemption on property taxes.

Check out a sample ballot here.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in South Florida?

You must be registered to vote 29 days before an election in the state of Florida-which means the deadline to register for this round of midterm elections is October 11th. Check the Florida voter information portal to see if you’re already registered.

How to register to vote in South Florida:

Registering to vote in South Florida is easy and can be done one of three ways:

Online: The easiest way to register is via the state’s voter registration portal-you can also check your registration status or change your party affiliation. All you need is a Florida driver’s license or state-issued ID card; the issued date of your license or ID; and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

By mail: Print out a voter registration form, complete it, and mail it to your county supervisor of elections.

In person: Go to your county supervisor of elections office to pick up, drop off, or fill out a registration form. Forms are also available at public libraries.

Can I vote early?

Yes, you can! For this election polling locations will be open for early voting from October 24, 2022 through November 6, 2022 from 7 am to 7 pm. You can also check to see how long the wait times are at various locations here.

Can I vote by mail?

Can’t make it to your polling place? Then you can vote by mail or via absentee ballot. Any registered voter can request this type of ballot for November’s midterm election. Keep in mind that your vote-by-mail requests must be received by Oct. 29 at 5 pm. You can request this ballot by emailing, calling, or visiting the county’s supervisor of elections.

You’re going to need your full name, address, date of birth, and a copy of a valid form of ID like a driver’s license or state-issued ID card-or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

How to find your polling place:

While you don’t need your voter’s registration card to vote, it is the easiest way to find your polling place as it’s printed right on the card. If you don’t have your card handy, you can find your polling place (along with your sample ballot and status of your voting registration) here-all you need is your name and birthdate.

How to find ballot drop boxes:

Need to drop off your ballot? Find a drop box near you here.

How to volunteer as a poll worker:

If you’re interested in working at a polling place during this election, it’s easy to apply and you’ll be trained on what exactly you’ll need to know while doing it. Apply here and check out what’s needed from you and what the process looks like. Fortunately, once you’re active in the volunteer system, you won’t have to register to do it for future elections, you’ll just need to let them know you’re available. Oh, and, you’ll get paid a small stipend.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Amber Love Bond is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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