Some populations face greater barriers to voting. Supervisors of Elections can help ease these barriers so every eligible voter has an equal opportunity to vote

Ballot Design

  • Several times over the last two decades, Florida has been in the headlines for ballot designs that thwarted voters’ intent in close elections. 
  • While the Legislature has passed laws introducing some parameters and litigation has provided more, supervisors of elections should collaborate on basic, uniform design guidelines that are tested to ensure broad understandability.

Accessibility

  • One in five voters has a disability. To ensure they can vote, Federal and state laws require voter registration and voting be accessible for people with disabilities.

Language Barriers

  • In our diverse state, Florida election officials must prioritize making sure all Floridians can understand voting information and ballots. 
  • Recent litigation and rulemaking make clear that supervisors of elections in each of Florida's counties are required to produce Spanish language materials and ballots, while some counties may be required to make materials available in other languages.

Voting from Jail

  • Each election, there are a number of Floridians eligible to vote who are confined to jail. 
  • During the November 2018 General Election, more than 55,000 people were in Florida jails. Only 22% were in jail due to felony convictions. More than half were awaiting trial – innocent until proven guilty. 
  • In some counties, more than 90% of their jail population was awaiting trial.
  • These Floridians are eligible to register to vote by mail but going through that process can be difficult.

Voting while Homeless

  • On an average day in January 2019, 28,591 Floridians were experiencing homelessness.  Many are eligible to vote but face significant barriers. 
  • They may not have an address and assume that they cannot vote or register without one. They may not have access to transportation to their polling place.

Return to report overview

1. Ballot Design

Q.Ballot Design
A.

Several times over the last two decades, Florida has been in the headlines for ballot designs that thwarted voters’ intent in close elections. While the Legislature has passed laws introducing some parameters and litigation has provided more, supervisors of elections should collaborate on basic, uniform design guidelines that are tested to ensure broad understandability.

Recommendations

  • Conduct focus groups to test ballot design and voter education materials to ensure they are understandable to the diverse voters served.
  • Instructions should be printed across the top.
  • All candidates for the same office should be listed on the same page and in the same column.
  • Ensure sample ballots match actual ballots.
  • Avoid all capital letters, centered text, small font sizes.
  • Use sans-serif fonts, such as Arial, Helvetica, or Clearview ADA, and stick to one font.
  • Use clear, simple language that is readable at a seventh-grade level.
  • Allow non-partisan organizations to review ballots prior to printing.

2. Accessibility

Q.Accessibility
A.

One in five voters has a disability. To ensure they can vote, Federal and state laws require voter registration and voting be accessible for people
with disabilities:

  • A voter can have anyone, other than the voter’s employer or union, help them vote. The Supervisor of Elections must also provide staff to help. Getting help at the polls does require an extra form, but staff can assist filling out the necessary paperwork.
  • Every polling location has to have a touch screen or other accessible device for marking ballots.
  • When voting by mail, a voter can have anyone, aside from their employer or union, help them complete the ballot.
  • Supervisors of Elections must offer supervised voting at assisted living facilities for groups of more than four at the request of the facility’s administrator and can do so without a request.
  • Polling places must be accessible. The federal VOTE program provides grants to counties to help make polling places accessible.

3. Breaking Language Barriers

Q.Breaking Language Barriers
A.

In our diverse state, Florida election officials must prioritize making sure all Floridians can understand voting information and ballots. Recent litigation and rulemaking make clear that supervisors of elections in each of Florida's counties are required to produce Spanish language materials and ballots, while some counties may be required to make materials available in other languages.

Recommendations

  • Staff offices and/or polling locations with bilingual staff or volunteers.
  • Provide language assistance hotlines.
  • Provide signage, materials and forms in Spanish and other frequently spoken languages in the community.
  • Work with community groups to ensure appropriate language voter education is available.

4. Voting from jail

Q.Voting from jail
A.

Each election, there are a number of Floridians eligible to vote who are confined to jail. During the November 2018 General Election, more than 55,000 people were in Florida jails. Only 22% were in jail due to felony convictions. More than half were awaiting trial – innocent until proven guilty. In some counties, more than 90% of their jail population was awaiting trial. These Floridians are eligible to register to vote by mail but going through that process can be difficult.

Recommendations

  • Visit the county jail regularly to ensure open communication and ease administration with jail administration.
  • Visit the jail to pick up VBM ballots.
  • Negotiate processes and policies with jail administrators to ensure voting access.
  • Provide educational materials, signage, necessary forms, and postage-paid return envelopes for ballots including at an Election Information Kiosk within the jail.

ACLU of Ohio, Voting in Jail: An Organizer’s Toolkit

5. Voting while homeless

Q.Voting while homeless
A.

On an average day in January 2019, 28,591 Floridians were experiencing homelessness.  Many are eligible to vote but face significant barriers. They may not have an address and assume that they cannot vote or register without one. They may not have access to transportation to their polling place.

Recommendations

  • Develop relationships with homeless shelters and service providers to ensure those experiencing homelessness have access to voter education and necessary forms.
  • Ensure early voting and polling locations are placed in communities accessible to those experiencing homelessness who may not have personal transportation.
  • Provide postage-paid return envelopes for vote-by-mail ballots and/or pick up ballots from shelters.
  • Provide forms, flyers, signage and guides for distribution.

National Coalition for the Homeless, You Don't Need a Home to Vote Campaign