Q&A of the Day – What are the penalties for double voting in Florida?
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: What are the penalties for double voting in Florida?
Bottom Line: On back of the recent revelation that approximately 1,000 voters in Georgia illegally double voted in their primary elections a caller brought up the question regarding Florida. What are the penalties in our state if one’s busted? Are they strong enough to discourage anyone who might attempt to commit voter fraud? First, here’s what we know about the voter fraud which was carried out in Georgia:
- Approximately 1,000 voters double voted using mailed in ballots and in-person voting
- Most double voters were Democrats (58%)
- The way the fraud was carried out could potentially occur in other states including Florida
The way the fraud was carried out appears to have been highly intentional. Voters requested absentee ballots. They voted with those ballots and placed them in the mail. Prior to the ballots being received/tabulated these voters went to polling places to also vote in person. Because the votes hadn’t been recorded, these voters appeared to be eligible to vote in person as well. This situation exposed a key flaw in the system. It’s one that’s applicable to Florida. The easy way to fix this problem would be to pass a law which would only allow a voter to request an absentee ballot or to vote in person. Current law in Florida only allows you to vote once, however it doesn’t prevent a person from requesting a vote-by-mail ballot but choosing to vote in person. So, to the question you’d asked.
In Georgia, double voting is a felony punishable by up to ten years in jail and a $100,000 fine. That law is stricter than federal law. If any federal race is on the ballot, double voting is a felony because of federal law. Under federal law the penalty for double voting in an election is a fine of up to $10,000 and five years in jail. In Florida we explicitly prohibit double voting in any election:
Florida Statute §104.18:
Except as provided in s. 101.6952, whoever willfully votes more than one ballot at any election commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
In Florida, a third-degree felony is only punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and five years in prison. That makes the federal penalties for double voting greater than Florida’s and far less than Georgia’s. You can decide if you think the federal penalties are tight enough to strongly discourage the practice in Florida. What this exercise does show is that there’s room for reform to close potential flaws in the system and to tighten penalties for those who try to thwart it.