As a continuing feature on DemCast, our very own Blue Dot answers questions from blue dots spread far and wide across the United States. A mother and activist living in one of Florida’s red counties, this Blue Dot is here to help!
Questions are gathered from DemCast readers and may be edited for length and clarity (or spelling and grammar if the case may be).
I am debating whether to request an absentee ballot because I am worried about whether or not it is safe to mail in my vote. What if it is lost in the mail? What if it isn’t counted?
Going Postal in Palm Bay
Dear Postal in Palm Bay,
Worrying about election security issues is something we’ve all woken up to since 2016. Well, at least most of us.
That’s especially true for those of us here in Florida where we now know several county election offices were hacked in 2016 and 2018 reminded us a bit too much of 2000.
Sometimes we as voters just can’t cast our ballots in person even on early voting days. Back in 2012, I requested my first absentee ballot because I was going to be out of the country during the weeks leading up to and including election day.
I was living outside Memphis at the time and apparently my plight was not enough to warrant an absentee ballot because there was one day during early voting when I would still be in town. So, I stood in line for more than four hours to vote on that day and cursed the local elections office under my breath the entire time while watching people come to vote and leave without having done so because their lunch breaks were over and they had to get back to work.
It was a very different experience from when I lived in Washington, one of only three states along with Oregon and Colorado where ballots are automatically mailed to every registered voter.
Offering easy Vote-By-Mail options is the simplest thing in the world to encourage voter turnout, yet many states refuse to implement such things because, well, some states really aren’t interested in increasing voter participation. Many states seem determined to do just the opposite.
Check out Vote.org’s excellent list of Absentee Ballot Rules for All 50 States
That’s why I was personally thrilled to learn that Florida now allows voters to request Vote-By-Mail (VBM) ballots for up to two general elections because voting-by-mail increases the likelihood that someone will vote by 30% and reduces the chances of voter suppression.
Except on Election Day, no excuse is needed to vote a vote-by-mail ballot in Florida anymore. And, unless otherwise specified, a request to receive a vote-by-mail ballot covers all elections through the end of the calendar year for the second ensuing regularly scheduled general election. (However, a vote-by-mail ballot that is returned undeliverable cancels a request for future elections and must be renewed.)
But, what has worried many for the past few years is whether or not our ballots are counted whether we submit them in person at a polling station or via the mail. Since early voting and VBM voting drastically increases turnout, which almost always favors Democrats, there has been a concerted effort on the right to undermine faith in VBM while also limiting early voting days and locations.
The Florida Democratic Party even recently hosted a Twitter Town Hall using the hashtag #MailTheVoteFL to clear up questions and concerns about voting by mail. They did this because voting by mail is actually a much more reliable way to ensure that your vote is counted.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo noted,
“In Florida, Vote-By-Mail ballots are actually counted first… It is a myth that Florida had a higher rate of VBM ballots which were not counted in 2018. Less than one percent of VBM ballots were rejected for any reason – the same as states that vote only by mail! The rate was actually less than in 2016 also, not higher.”
Voting by mail creates a paper trail that many Florida voters can track to ensure that not only was their VBM ballot received but that it was counted. Any voter who has requested a ballot can track online the status through a link within the Division of Elections’ Voter Information Lookup or through their county Supervisor of Elections’ website.
The mission of the Florida Democratic Party’s Voter Protection Department also seeks to ensure that every eligible voter is allowed to cast a ballot that actually counts. The department solves problems such as removing impediments to voter registration, voter participation, and the fair administration of elections in all 67 counties.
Personally, I like to take my time with a ballot. Review all my options and research each issue. I also like to be able to share the experience with my children to help them learn how to be good citizens. When they were little, it was more than a hassle to bring them along to the voting booth but I still did. Now, I get them to help me do online research as I fill out my VBM.
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