Although voting by mail was already an option for Florida residents, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it a favored alternative to staying safe during the election.
In 2016, Florida changed the term “absentee vote” to “vote-by-mail” so registered voters in the state could cast a ballot without showing up at their assigned polling location. The previous bill could confuse residents who “mistakenly believe” that they must be away from home to request the ballot.
According to the Florida Division of Elections, at least 2.7 million Florida residents voted by mail during the 2016 general election. Of those, 1.1 million were Republican, 1 million Democrats, over 500,000 had no affiliation, and nearly 70,000 were classified as ‘other.’
“The vote must be by mail. The most important thing is to protect the safety of our community,” Soraya Márquez, state director of Mi Familia Vota, told The Americano.
Register to vote and request a vote-by-mail ballot.
You still have time to register for the general election on November 3, but be sure to do it before October 5. Due to the pandemic, the most recommended option is online.
Voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot online, in-person, by mail, phone, or fax. It’s essential to know about your county’s Supervisor of Elections to complete your online application.
Have your official ID on hand.
In your request, you have to provide your name, address, date of birth, and signature (if the application is written). However, it must match the same information on your driver’s identification, or any other state official ID you have. Otherwise, your online application will likely not be practical, and you will have to do it by mail. That includes other names (typically a second name) or abbreviations in the address.
Turn in your signed ballot on time.
Research Diana Cao from Healthy Elections, a non-partisan group at the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, also revealed in an analysis about Florida’s elections that 1.3% of voters who attempted voting-by-mail in the 2020 Florida primary failed to have their ballots counted. Her study determined that these groups were mostly voters between 18-29 and 30-44, first-time voters, Black, and Hispanic.
“The crucial part of voting-by-mail is the signature,” State Director of Mi Familia Vota said. “It has to be the same as your driver’s identification.”
Don’t request a vote-by-mail ballot if you haven’t registered to vote.
You should be registered to vote in Florida elections. Also, the website registertovoteflorida.gov is available to update your personal information. You can verify if your signature matches with the one that your county elections office has on file.
Send the ballot last minute.
The most common mistakes are forgetting to sign the form and sending it late.
Sometimes votes don’t count because the ballots arrive after 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. Due to the pandemic, problems in postal offices and long lines have been reported.
If you have decided to vote in-person instead of voting-by-mail, you cannot return your voted mail ballot to a polling place. A recommendation is to bring the vote-by-mail ballot and cancel it at the polls.
Don’t send a designee to pick up a ballot without an affidavit.
Florida allows designees to pick up vote-by-mail ballots for their immediate family and two other voters. However, they must submit an affidavit that is available in both English and Spanish. The document must include an additional authorization from the voter.
Citizens that commit fraud can obtain a fine or go to jail. Designees can pick up the ballots within the nine days before the election.