Q&A of the Day – Florida vote tabulations, poll workers & potential points of failure
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: 1st note: Brian, Love, love, love "The Morning Rush!" Question; When I voted in person in the Primary, the lady who gave me my ballot wrote something on the top of it. Is this legal, or should I request a new ballot if it happens on Nov 3rd?
2nd note: I have voted by mail for many years for convenience. October 8th, I walked my ballot to the Office of Elections in the North Palm Beach County Court House. I was handed an “I Voted” sticker. I went online to check my ballot. This is what I found: Ballot received for processing October 9, 2020. (I handed my ballot in the day before at 9:30AM. ). My vote has not been counted. I was deceived. 1) My ballot sat in their office a day before processed. 2) I was handed an “I Voted” sticker but my vote had yet to be counted. 3) I can check back after the polls close to see if my vote counted. Am I missing something here? I sent an email with questions and I’m waiting for a response. My sister lives in Martin County and walked her ballot in. She checked their site, and her vote was counted.
Bottom Line: These are two separate but similar notes which are worth addressing as part of a comprehensive conversation regarding the do’s & don’ts and in’s & outs of the voting process in Florida. I’ve received more questions with specific concerns like these this cycle than any other. I’ll start with the first note. It’s among the most straight-forward.
In this situation, a poll worker made a notion for an in-person ballot being cast. Without having any additional context, it’s odd to have a poll worker writing on a ballot you are to cast in person. Specifically, under the Florida Division of Election’s Polling Places Procedures Manual, there are only two explicit times in which a poll worker is to write on a voter’s ballot. The first is if a voter is requesting to cancel a ballot (typically absentee) they’d previously been issued. Under Florida law you’re allowed to cancel a requested ballot and vote in person provided your ballot hasn’t already been tabulated. In these instances, the poll worker is to write “Canceled” on the ballot envelope and return the canceled ballots to the Supervisor of Elections while issuing a new ballot. The only other time a poll worker has authority to mark a ballot is if a voter has a “Declaration to Secure Assistance”. If a voter is disabled or is unable to read or write, there is a provision under which poll workers, or authorized 3rd parties may assist these voters in filling out their ballots. Based on what you stated, it doesn’t sound like either of these explanations apply to your situation. My answer would be yes, if in doubt, have another ballot issued to you. Generally speaking, a notion on a ballot won’t prevent your votes from being tabulated provided it’s not interfering with the code which is scanned or where you’re actually voting for candidates and issues. That being said, if you have doubts request a new ballot. You’re entitled to receive up to three ballots when voting in person should you make an error or have concerns like you’ve described. It’s worth noting that notations on ballots by poll workers don’t necessary indicate intent for misfeasance by a poll worker. There are states which allow poll workers to make notions on ballots for various reasons. Now onto the concerns expressed by the second listener.
This one is specific enough to be completely explainable. You mentioned you turned your vote by mail ballot in on October 9th. That’s a key date. Ballots weren’t able to begin to be counted in Florida until October 10th at the earliest. Governor DeSantis signed an executive order on the 10th allowing election supervisors to begin to process vote by mail ballots in an effort to attempt to prevent election supervisors being overwhelmed with record votes being cast by mail. And just because the 10th opened up the window for the ability to begin to process didn’t mean that all ballots which were received by each county would immediately be counted. Palm Beach County is the third most populous county in the state with a population that is greater than nine times the population of Martin County where your sister voted. It wouldn’t be at all suspicious for her ballot to be accounted for prior to yours in Palm Beach County. This takes me back to what I’ve said all year...
If you can vote in person, you should vote in person. In Florida, when voting in person, you are the one who scans your ballot. In so doing you eliminate all potential points of failure which can come into play with vote by mail ballots. The peace of mind of knowing your vote is counted likely would outweigh the convenience factor you mentioned. Hope that helps & happy voting!