Election officials across the state of Florida are urging voters to follow the instructions on the mail-in ballots to the letter.
Unlike some states, Florida mail-in ballots must be submitted to the designated county Supervisor of Elections’ office by 7 p.m. on Election Night. Ballots can be mailed in or dropped off in designated secure boxes outside of county elections office or early voting sites once they open.
Ballots that arrive later than 7 p.m. on election night do not count.
Voters must sign their mail-in ballots before putting them in the mail or depositing them in designated ballot drop-off boxes. Additionally, voters should fill in the oval next to the name of their preferred candidate in each race, using dark-colored ink.
These instructions are often repeated by staff and on signs at polling places but can be overlooked when someone is voting from the comforts of home.
If a voter does not use the proper markings and/or the ballot does not properly process in the tabulation machine, the ballot will be reviewed by the canvassing board, according to a spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office.
“Experience matters when it comes to voting by mail,” said Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida.
According to Smith, first time mail-in voters are twice as likely to make errors and have their ballot thrown out.
He also told the CBS12 News I-Team that younger voters, as well as Hispanic and African American voters, have higher mail-in ballot rejection rates, citing his research.
In Palm Beach County, roughly one percent of mail-in ballots were rejected in the August 2020 primary. Most were rejected because they arrived past the 7 p.m. Election Night deadline.
Vote-by- mail ballots can also be rejected if the signature on the ballot does not line up with the signature on file with the county Supervisor of Elections office. However, voters are notified of that issue and have a certain period of time to come in, present ID, and “cure” the problem.
Ballots that show up at the Canvassing Board are often reviewed to determine the voter’s intent, a process that reminds some of the 2000 Bush versus Gore recount that swept up Palm Beach County and other Florida counties.