Major Commitment to Have Vote-By-Mail Ballots "Cured" by Election Day in Florida
Floridians have been voting for over a month, but that comes to an end on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 7.8 million Floridians had cast a ballot – with 4.3 million plus of those ballots sent through the mail.
Supervisors of elections, members from the Democratic and Republican parties, and several nonpartisan groups are all working in Florida to ensure that vote-by-mail ballots that have problems with them because of a lack of a signature or a “mis-matched” signature get corrected, or “cured,” to count in the general election.
The rejection rate is relatively low – in Hillsborough County, it’s at 0.15% - but in a state where close margins are the norm, it’s not a cliché to say that every vote counts.
Among the groups working on curing ballots is the Coalition for Black and Brown Ballot Access. It’s an amalgamation of four different progressive organizations – PoderLatinx, Equal Ground Education Fund, Black Voters Matter Florida and the Hispanic Federation Florida that are on the ground in 23 counties in the Sunshine State in the final weeks of this election cycle.
“We are working to basically provide those individuals with the correct information when it comes to how to vote,” says Da’juh Sawyer, the voter projection coordinator for the Coalition for Black and Brown Access. “We contact them, and we ensure that they’re able to get their ballots into the supervisor of elections office or to the nearest polling location.”
Other organizations like Common Cause and America Votes are also working on curing vote-by-mail ballots in Florida, as well as representatives from the Biden and Trump campaigns.
The Republican Party of Florida is working on such efforts with their “Secure Ballots” operation, says spokesperson Alia Faraj-Johnson.
“Our outreach efforts to voters supplement the efforts of the county supervisor of elections who is required by law to notify voters who have signature deficiencies on their vote-by-mail envelope,” she wrote in an email. “With more voters choosing to vote-by-mail than ever before, the RPOF and Trump Victory have made it a priority to reach out to these voters and encourage them to contact their county supervisor of elections to quickly address the deficiencies so that their vote will count. After all, our goal is to ensure that every legal vote counts.”
“Our campaign is committed to ensuring that every eligible Floridian is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box,” said Carlie Waibel, communications director for the Biden campaign in Florida. “That is why we’ve expanded our voter education efforts to ensure voters know how to fill out and track their ballots, and have mobilized volunteer lawyers across the state to reach out to voters and guide them through the process of curing their ballot using their smartphones.”
Local supervisors of elections also have staffers working to contact voters who need to cure their ballots.
“My staff is going the extra mile to reach out to these people and say, 'Come on, people, work with me, you know, get this in. Let me show it where it is. I’ll send it to you. I’ll email it to you. You know, how can I help you with it?’” says Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.
As of Thursday night, Latimer says that his office had 815 vote-by-mail ballots that had been set aside because of signature issues. Of those, 354 have already been cured.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday that the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office has had 827 vote-by-mail signature issues, with 373 of those ballots already cured.
Floridians who need to cure their vote-by-mail ballots have until 5 p.m. next Thursday. The previous deadline was on the Monday before the election at 5 p.m., but the Florida Legislature changed that in 2019.
Latimer says his office does as much as possible to contact voters who have a problem with their vote-by-mail ballot, but says that voters also need to take some responsibility.
“In the primary election, we had about 700 ballots that had problems with a signature or that they forgot to sign it, 50 percent of those got cured,” he said. “Anecdotally, I can tell you that we got a hold of other people who said, ‘Ah, I’m too busy. Or I’m not going to worry about it now.’”
There have been several reports issued in the past few years that show that young and minority voters are more likely to have their mail-in-ballots rejected at the ballot box than any other cohort. That’s one reason why the Coalition for Black and Brown Ballot Access was created, says Da’juh Sawyer.
"We’re trying to ensure that we’re able to correct that, so people can have a chance to be a part of this free and fair process, which is voting,” she says. “And we want to make sure that those people in those disenfranchised communities are able to be a part of that process and we want to make sure that their vote counts.”