TAMPA, Fla. - While the president has criticized voting by mail in other states, he says it’s safe and secure in Florida. As do Democrats and Republicans, as do election supervisors across the state. But there are some issues that can affect your vote – issues that did affect around 1.5 percent of the votes in the August primary.
A Politico analysis found 35,000 mail-in ballots in Florida’s primary did not count for one of two reasons.
The first, and most common reason, is that the ballots did not arrive on time. Two thirds of those 35,000 ballots got rejected because they were late.
Under Florida law, all mail-ballots must arrive at the elections office by 7 p.m. on election night. Postmarks are irrelevant, but apparently, many voters who mailed their ballots the same day as the primary did not realize that.
Election managers are urging voters to request mail ballots now if you have not already, and that you send them back in plenty of time to be arrive by election day.
Election managers say you can easily check the status of your mail in vote by checking with your county’s supervisor of elections. They have tracking systems sort of like Amazon or FedEx that show when your mail ballot goes out, when it come back in, and when it gets counted.
The second reason why mail ballots didn’t count is that there was a problem with the signatures. Voters either forgot to sign the ballot, or their signature did not match the one on file with the county.
In Hillsborough County, 356 mail ballots that arrived on time didn’t count because 211 had mismatched signatures, while 145 had no signature.
This can happen with senior citizens because their signatures change over time, or people who develop physical disabilities and can no longer sign as they did before.
It can also happen when people scribble the signature, or young voters who have not yet perfected their signatures.
“Research indicates younger people, first-time voters, and the disabled face greater risk to have their ballots rejected due to mismatching signatures or other defects,” warned Ben Wilcox of Integrity Florida.
The state legislature did make some changes to make it easier for election workers to notify people if there is a problem to give them more time to correct it.
“Ballot envelopes now ask for an email address and phone number, so voters can get notified of problems with the signature,” Wilcox continued.
Elections officials suggest that people who have developed physical challenges and can no longer consistently sign their name instead choose to sign an easy symbol on their voter registration – one they can more easily duplicate on their ballot.
If you have other issues that prevent you from signing at all, you should contact your supervisor of elections office.