MIAMI, FL - Voting accessibility in the state of Florida is inconsistent and inequitable, according to a report published today by the ACLU of Florida. The report – Let Florida Vote: Coronavirus is only the newest barrier to voting – highlights obstacles to voting access in Florida’s 67 counties and offers policy recommendations by analyzing data from recent elections, developments in election law, research and practices.
The report establishes guidelines to promote equitable voting access for upcoming and future elections and calls on election officials to ensure reliable and fair vote by mail, expansion of early voting access, administer equity in polling locations and provide access for all eligible voters in their respective counties.
“The reality is that the policies in place discourage voter access and promote unjust inequities in Florida’s electoral system. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates this,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “It is more critical than ever that we make it as easy as possible for all eligible voters to vote by mail effectively in 2020, prepare for a likely surge in absentee ballots and safely accommodate early voters. If we are to protect our elections and the future of our democracy, then we must take these proactive measures now.”
Analysis from the 2016 and 2018 elections illustrates that voting by mail in Florida is neither reliable, nor fair. The report found that tens of thousands of voters see their vote-by-mail ballots rejected each election because, in a lay person’s opinion, they failed to sign their absentee ballot the exact same way they did, often decades ago, when they first got an identification card from the DMV. It also found that rejection rates increased in 2018, and Black voters, young voters, and uniformed service members continued to be particularly vulnerable to having their vote go uncounted in 2018.
“The current mode of voting by mail in the state is completely inadequate heading into November—from the timing of requesting and returning mail ballots, to return envelope design, postage, and Election Day deadline, to the verification of a voter’s signature,” stated Dr. Daniel Smith, professor of the Political Science Department at the University of Florida. Smith co-authored the report’s vote-by-mail performance analysis. “If Florida administers the upcoming election under the current vote by mail system, tens of thousands of eligible Floridians, voters who would have cast valid ballots in-person early or on Election Day, will have their ballots rejected, with younger voters and racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately being disenfranchised.”
Additionally, the report found dramatic variances in early voting access across Florida counties. Access to early voting is determined by each county’s supervisor of elections, including the number and location of early voting centers and their hours of operation. Considering that nearly a third of Floridians normally cast their ballot early, the report suggests making early voting available for the entire permissible period at as many locations as feasible to reduce the potential for crowds, implementing social distancing measures and setting up plexiglass barriers at locations to help ensure every Floridian who needs to vote in person can do so safely.
“Our electoral system disenfranchises far too many people through bureaucratic inadequacies,” added Kirk Bailey, political director of the ACLU of Florida. “Addressing our vote by mail system won’t be enough to ensure successful Elections in November. Some voters cannot vote by mail due to disability or justifiable lack of confidence in the process. Early voting will continue to be necessary to ensure voters can cast their ballots without enduring crowds, long lines, and schedule conflicts, especially with increased caregiver duties. It's simply the right thing to do.”
Read the report here: https://www.aclufl.org/en/publications/letfloridavote