Florida Voters : Absentee Ballot Request

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Absentee Voting in Florida

Unlike other states, Florida uses a different, more accurate term to describe absentee ballots. In 2016, the name was changed from absentee ballot to vote-by-mail- ballot. This is because election officials felt the term absentee ballot was outdated. When the concept was first introduced, absentee ballots were specifically for voters who were absent from the state during an election. Florida has long since lifted the restrictions on who can vote by the mail, so the state changed the name of ballots to reflect the fact you can apply for a mail in ballot whether or not you are in the state during an election. Because of Covid-19, there is a surge in voter requests for vote-by-mail ballots.

Registering to Vote-by-Mail in Florida

All Florida voters have the right to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot. There are several ways you can get an application:

  • Complete an online application available from your county Supervisors of Elections website. You can find the relevant county for each city here.
  • Request an application through fax, email or mail by contacting the Supervisor of Elections.
  • Visiting your local county election office to complete the application in person.
  • Calling the election office to request an application through the mail.
  • When you apply for a vote-by-mail ballot, you must provide the following information:
  • Name.
  • Current address.
  • Date of birth.

Additionally, if you are making the request to an address other than the listed address on your voter registration, you must provide your signature. This is a security measure to ensure someone else is not impersonating you to steal your vote. This requirement is waived if you are an overseas voter or absent due to military service.

A family member or legal guardian can file a vote-by-mail application on your behalf, but you are still required to provide your signature. The requester must also include his or her relationship to you. The deadline to request a ballot is up to 5 p.m. on the 10th day before an election takes place. It is important to note, the deadline to register to vote in the 2020 presidential election is October 5th. First time voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot, but only if they are registered by this date.

Acquiring a Vote-by-Mail Ballot

When you receive your ballot largely depends on where you live. In 2020, the process is expected to take longer due to a significant increase in the number of voters choosing to vote by mail. Fortunately, Florida has strict rules regarding when absentee ballots are sent out. If you are within the state, there is a 7-day window which takes place 40 days before an election. During this period, absentee ballots are sent out. If you do not receive a ballot within this time, you can contact the Supervisors of Elections and still plenty of time to receive a new ballot. For the 2020 presidential election, this period starts on September 24th and ends on October 1st.

Vote-by-mail ballots are sent out even earlier to overseas or military voters. These ballots must be sent no later than 45 days before an election takes place. For the 2020 presidential election, the deadline for these ballots to arrive is September 19th.

If you do not want your ballot to arrive in the mail, you can go to your county election office to pick up your ballot up to 9 days before an election. You may designate a third party to pick up your ballot, but he or she must complete an affidavit confirming he or she has your permission. A designee may not pick up more than two ballots for another party during an election.

Casting your Ballot

When you receive your vote-by-mail ballot, it contains instructions for how to use the ballot and where to return it. You may either return the ballot in the mail or drop it at a deposit box. You may drop your ballot off when early voting begins, which starts on October 24th for the 2020 presidential election, up until 7 p.m. on election day. If you decide you want to vote in person after registering for a vote-by-mail ballot, you must bring your ballot with you to the polling station. If you do not have your ballot, you will be unable to vote. This is a security measure to keep voters from casting two ballots in an election.

Military and Overseas Vote

With the exception of using slightly different deadlines, the registration process for an absentee ballot is the same for military and overseas voters. These voters also have the option of requesting a ballot using the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). If you do not receive your ballot in time, contact the County Supervisor of Elections office. You can also apply for a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). This is a generic absentee ballot, which allows you to participate in any federal, state or local election.

Preparing for the 2020 Election

While election officials are expecting a surge in vote-by-mail ballots, they are still taking precautions to safely prepare polling stations. Face shields and disposable pens are being gathered for polling stations. Election officials are also pushing for regular temperature checks for polling workers. County officials are also organizing additional curbside tents to act as no-contact deposit stations. Whenever possible, polling locations are getting plexiglass barriers to separate voters and workers.

One of the biggest changes is introducing handheld devices to read driver’s license. This allows polling workers to confirm voter’s identities without requiring physical contact. Hand sanitizers and wipes will be available at all polling stations. Each station is also given an expanded budget to purchase cleaning supplies to use both before and after the election.