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Longboat Key Monday, Jul. 27, 2020 3 months ago

Vote-by-mail is not ‘all-mail voting’

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Absentee voting — or voting by mail — has been a part of Florida’s election process since 2002. Every signature is checked for security.
by: Ron Turner

Since March, the coronavirus crisis has touched our lives in many ways, including how we live, work and even how we vote. Despite that, my staff and I remain committed to providing accessible elections for all voters and opportunities for any registered voter to cast his or her vote in a safe and secure environment. 

Over these past months, one major topic of conversation in elections and politics has been vote-by-mail. Each state has its own election laws and elections terminology, but in Florida, vote-by-mail is simply another term for voting by absentee ballot. 

Under Florida law, vote-by-mail began in Florida in 2002 as no-excuse absentee voting. In 2016, the Legislature changed the name to vote-by-mail. Except for the name, little else has changed during the past 18 years with our state’s vote-by-mail (absentee) ballot process. 

Vote-by-mail is not the same as an all-mail ballot election, where ballots would be mailed to all voters. That is not legally allowed in Florida for a primary or general election.

However, voting by mail is one of the convenient methods provided to Florida voters to cast their ballots during any federal, state or county election.

To vote by mail, a registered voter may request a ballot for a single election or through two general election cycles (the end of 2022, currently). Vote-by-mail ballots are not forwarded and must be mailed to the address in a voter’s record, unless a voter provides a different mailing address  in writing. 

Every signature on a returned vote-by-mail ballot is compared to the voter’s signature on file in the elections office to determine a match. The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot be mailed to any voter is 5 p.m.  Saturday, Aug. 8 for the Aug. 18 primary election.

That, of course, is just one possible method of voting. 

As a reminder, Florida law provides three ways to vote for any registered voter — by mail (absentee), early (in person at designated sites) or on election day (at an assigned polling place). Each individual voter chooses which legally allowed voting method works best for him or her. 

For the primary election, early voting will occur from Saturday, Aug. 8 through Sunday, Aug. 16 (see box). The experience at early voting sites is nearly identical to what a voter experiences at his or her
polling location on election day. The same check-in equipment, voting booths and tabulators with ballot boxes are used during both early voting and on election day.

The major difference between early voting and election day is that a voter may choose any early voting site in the county, instead of being assigned to a specific polling location. 

Finally, we have primary election day voting — Tuesday, Aug. 18. Polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and a voter must vote at his or her assigned polling place on election day. 

Some polling places will be temporarily moved because of staffing shortages and the need to utilize election day personnel in the most efficient manner. Voters whose locations are moved will be notified by the elections office prior to the primary election.

Your supervisor of elections team takes great pride in serving the voters of our county. We encourage each of you to vote in every election and invite you to contact our office with any questions. We are here to serve you, the voters! 

Ron Turner is the supervisor of elections for Sarasota County and is secretary of the Florida Supervisors of Elections statewide association. 

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