Absentee ballots: Not the panacea once thought

Checking Florida's ballots
Florida election officials rejected a record number of absentee ballots in November

Florida election officials rejected a record number of absentee ballots in November’s election, mainly due to carelessness by not following directions. As a result, some electoral squeakers could just as easily have gone the other way.

It sounds so easy. Accomplish your civic duty in the comfort of your own home and avoid long lines in inclement weather. But the results aren’t always what we expect.

1,400 absentee ballots were rejected in Palm Beach County, 2,100 in Broward and nearly 2,500 in Miami-Dade according to the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo.

Moving to Florida’s Gulf coast, Steve Bousquet reported in the Tampa Bay Times that his area’s election supervisors rejected nearly 3,000 votes. So what’s the problem?

“Absentee ballots are processed and verified using different standards than regular ballots,” said University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith to the Times, “and as such are routinely rejected at a higher rate.”

Some absentee ballots were rejected because the voters neglected to sign the envelope. Some first-time voters who registered by mail didn’t include a copy of their photo-ID. Still others fell to the occasional unreliability of the U.S. postal system.

“I voted absentee because I realized lines in Miami-Dade County would be horrendous and I didn’t feel I wanted to deal with that hassle,” Patricia Tepedino wrote in an email.

Tepedino’s ballot didn’t count because the elections supervisor received it on Nov. 19. According to the Herald’s Caputo she’ll reconsider absentee-ballot voting in the future.

A record number, nearly 2.4 million people voted by absentee ballot this year. Of those received, 1.2 percent were rejected in Broward County, 1.1 percent in Palm Beach county and one percent on both Miami-Dade and Hillsborough Counties.

The lesson from this is to vote by absentee ballot only when necessary, and when you do, read the directions carefully and drop it in the mail early. Who knows, maybe Allen West last legislative weekly wrap-up wouldn’t have been his final one otherwise.

Read more in the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald.


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