What Florida voters need to know about voting by mail in the August primary

By Steven Lemongello, Orlando Sentinel, July 18, 2022.

Mail-in ballots are starting to go out to Florida voters for the August primary, kicking off the first major election in the state after two controversial elections laws passed since 2020.

Voters have until Aug. 13 to sign up to receive a mail-in ballot for the primary, although they can still sign up and receive a mail-in ballot in person at elections offices after that. Mail-in ballots have to be received at elections offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Aug. 23.

While the changes to voting by mail weren’t sweeping in nature, Floridians were still affected by a new requirement requiring that IDs be provided before they can sign up to vote by mail.

New Florida voters had already been required since 2006 to provide either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number when registering.

But anyone who registered before 2006 had been grandfathered in and wasn’t required to update registrations with that information, even if they made any other changes in the past 17 years.

This year, though, requesting a mail-in ballot would require those forms of identification.

Elections supervisors stressed that any voter who hasn’t yet provided their ID information can still vote in-person this year, either during early voting or on Election Day.

In addition, signatures on mail-in ballots will likely come under even more scrutiny from partisan observers, who have been given more access to ballots thanks to the new law.

Voters have until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 25 to fix, or “cure,” signatures that don’t match the ones on file or any other issues with ballots.

“Once we identify the signature doesn’t match, we immediately notify the voter by whatever means we have of the fact they need to cure it,” Hays said. “And they have until the second day [after election day], Thursday at 5 p.m., to cure it. That has not changed. There’s no change in the law on that.”

Voters should make sure their registration includes a good telephone number and email address so they can be notified if there’s a problem.

Another provision of the 2021 law requires voters to request mail-in ballots every two years instead of every four, but that won’t affect voters this cycle. A voter who requested mail-in ballots before 2020 will still receive them through 2022 thanks to a grandfather clause but would have to sign up again next year to vote by mail for the 2023-24 election cycle.

Voters can visit their county elections websites to make sure they are still listed as having requested to vote by mail and can also check there to see if their ballot was received and counted.

Visit https://www.soecharlottecountyfl.gov/ or call 941-833-5400 for Charlotte County.

Major races on the ballot in August include the Democratic primary for governor, several contested party primaries for Congress and the state Legislature, and many key local races.

The 2021 law also bans a supervisor from mailing every voter in the county a mail-in ballot, whether they had requested it or not, despite the fact that no counties in Florida had done so.

The practice has been a major target of former President Trump, who has railed against it in other states, falsely claiming fraud.

A few Florida counties, including Seminole, sent out mail-in applications to every registered voter, not actual ballots that hadn’t been requested.

The mail-in provisions of the 2021 law were not affected by a judge’s ruling earlier this year that blocked much of the law from being enforced, including restrictions on drop boxes, creating new requirements for voter applications, and banning interactions with voters in line.

An appeals court in May reinstated the sections of the law that had been blocked as the legal challenge continues.

 Image Credits: Photo by Chris Woods from FreeImages.com