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September 19, 2018

Younger and minority voters were more likely to cast mailed ballots that were rejected and less likely to have their VBM ballots cured

ACLU Urges Voters to Track and Confirm Vote-by-Mail Ballots

MIAMI – The lack of uniformity across Florida’s 67 counties in the administration of the Vote-By-Mail (VBM) process as well as variation in the required procedures to cure ballots that were rejected due to a missing or mis-matched signature led to higher rejection rates for ballots cast by mail than ballots cast at a voter’s assigned precinct or at an Early Voting site during the 2012 and 2016 General Election, according to a report published today by the ACLU of Florida.  

In addition, the report “Vote-By-Mail Ballots Cast in Florida,” also highlights that younger voters and racial and ethnic minority voters were much more likely to cast vote-by-mail ballots that were rejected and were less likely to have their ballots cured when they were flagged for a signature problem.

“While we want to encourage Floridians to use every form of voting, including casting a ballot by mail,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, “we also need to urge voters to take the steps to track their mail ballot and, if there is a problem with the voter’s signature, to use the cure process to ensure that their vote is counted.”

To address these inconsistencies, the report also provides policy recommendations to ensure that all eligible voters have equal access to the voting process and to have their vote processed, tabulated, and accepted as valid.

The report is a collaboration between the ACLU of Florida and the principal author, Dr. Daniel Smith, Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida, President of ElectionSmith, and one of the nation’s leading experts on voting and election administration.

“By contrasting the rates of rejected VBM ballots in the 2012 and 2016 Presidential election, we found that younger and racial and ethnic minority voters casting VBM ballots were at least twice as likely as older and white voters to have their VBM ballot rejected,” stated Dr. Daniel Smith. “With this revealing information, we need to work towards ensuring all Florida voters’ ballots are counted regardless of the method they choose to vote.” 

In Florida, voting by mail is increasingly popular. Both the overall number of VBM ballots, as well as the percentage of VBM ballots of all votes cast, have steadily ticked up over the past three presidential elections. More than 2.7 million registered voters, 28.7% of the 9.6 million Floridians who voted, cast their ballot by mail in the 2016 election and can be expected to continue to increase.

The report also found that Florida’s counties do not use standardized coding when documenting the reasons for the rejection of a VBM ballot.

“We want to make sure voters are empowered to ensure that their mail ballot is counted. And, we call on the Legislature, the Elections Division of the Department of State as well as our state’s local election officials to establish greater statewide uniformity in the procedures used to validate and cure rejected VBM ballots,” the ACLU’s Howard Simon added. 

“If you wish to or need to vote by mail, you have the right to track and remedy your ballot with your County’s Supervisor of Election. Equal access to the ballot box is fundamental to a free and fair election and Florida voters should feel secure in knowing their voice will be heard whether they cast their vote at the ballot box or by mail.”

To learn more on how to track your VBM ballot and ensure that your vote counts, click here: https://www.aclufl.org/en/vote-mail-florida

The report is available at: aclufl.org/FloridaVBMReport

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