A ballot drop box in Florida

Poll workers help a voter put their mail-in ballot in an official Miami-Dade County ballot drop box on August 11, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Voters Urged to Act as More Than 15,000 Mail-In Ballots Flagged

"We need every Floridian to have their voices heard in this election, which is why those who voted by mail should check with their county supervisor of elections office to ensure their ballot was received without issue," said one advocate.

With more than 15,000 mail-in ballots having been flagged for signature or other issues so far in Florida, democracy defenders on Friday urged people to track their ballot online to ensure it has been accepted and to promptly fix mistakes so that votes are not thrown out during next week's pivotal midterms.

Voters can check the status of their ballot by calling their county supervisor of elections office or using the online trackers available in most counties. They have until 5:00 pm ET on Thursday, November 10 to resolve any outstanding issues.

"We need every Floridian to have their voices heard in this election, which is why those who voted by mail should check with their county supervisor of elections office to ensure their ballot was received without issue," Amy Keith, program director at Common Cause Florida, said in a statement.

According to Common Cause Florida:

As of Thursday, there have been 15,714 ballots flagged, or 0.7% of the total ballot[s] cast by mail so far, for what are largely missing or mismatched signatures on return envelopes, according to Florida elections data analyzed by Dan A. Smith, chair of the University of Florida's political science department and a member of Common Cause Florida's advisory board.

Of the 15,714 flagged ballots:

  • 9,090 had return envelopes flagged for mismatched signatures;
  • 5,167 are missing signatures on the envelope; and
  • 1,457 had other "voter caused errors."

Voters under 30 were more likely to have issues flagged with their vote-by-mail ballots, with just under 3% of ballots cast by 18-24-year-olds flagged for issues and 2.3% of ballots cast by 24-29-year-olds, according to Smith's analysis. For voters over age 65, the rate fell to 0.5%.

"Younger voters have higher rates of problems with their vote-by-mail ballots this year because they didn't sign return envelopes or those signatures didn't match what was on file with election officials," Smith said. "We know in previous elections that while younger voters are more likely to be disenfranchised when it comes to voting by mail, they also are ready and able to make sure their votes are counted by curing their ballots."

Notably, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 90 into law last year after the proposal to impose additional barriers to voting was passed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature.

It was one of the dozens of voter suppression laws that Republicans nationwide have enacted since former President Donald Trump falsely and repeatedly blamed his loss in the 2020 presidential election on mass voter fraud, with an intense focus on mail-in ballots--a lie that has been thoroughly disproven.

Among other things, Florida's S.B. 90 authorized people appointed by political parties or candidates to flag ballots for signature review, even if the ballot was not otherwise flagged by professional election officials. It is being challenged in the courts by Common Cause Florida and other voting rights groups.

Florida voters who have yet to return their mail-in ballot must do so by 7:00 pm ET on Tuesday, November 8, or they can vote in person at an early voting site in their county or at their assigned precinct on Election Day.

In the meantime, all of the 15,000-plus voters whose mail-in ballots were flagged still have an opportunity to cure their ballot.

To resolve a signature issue on a mail-in ballot, a voter must:

  • Fill out this form;
  • Provide a copy (or photo) of the required forms of identification; and
  • Submit the signed form and copy of identification by email, fax, or delivery to their county supervisor of elections office by 5:00 pm ET on Thursday, November 10.

"A person other than the voter can drop off the signed form and copy of identification," Common Cause Florida noted.

"Voters should be contacted by elections officials if there is a problem with their vote-by-mail ballot," the group added, though it "strongly advises voters to track their mail ballot themselves by calling their county supervisor of elections office or using the online trackersavailable in most counties."

As Common Dreamsreported last month, DeSantis has also come under fire for using his so-called Office of Election Crimes and Security to arrest more than a dozen formerly incarcerated voters--most of whom are eligible to vote thanks to a 2018 state referendum re-enfranchising 1.4 million ex-felons--for alleged fraud. The arrests, which have been accompanied by felony charges that carry prison terms of up to five years and fines of up to $5,000, have reportedly scared away many potential voters.

Any Floridian with questions about voting or issues to report can call or text the state's nonpartisan election protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE, or 866-687-8683.

News of how many mail-in ballots are being flagged in Florida comes in the wake of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Tuesday ruling that state election officials there cannot count ballots submitted without a correct date on the outer envelope--a decision made in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of right-wing groups.

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