The Florida Legislature passed a measure to revise some elections procedures – a response to complaints during last fall’s midterms.
The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Republican Blaise Ingoglia, moves the deadline for voters to request vote-by-mail ballots from six days before an election to 10 days before. And it prohibits county Supervisors of Elections from mailing out ballots less than eight days before the election instead of the current four days.
The bill also requires the Florida Department of State to provide training to help elections workers and county canvassing board members determine whether the signature on a voter’s ballot matches the one on file at the elections office. This issue was a point of conflict last fall – a voter’s signature can change significantly over the years, and they may not know that their signature on file needs updating.
When Ingoglia introduced the bill earlier in the session, Democrats reacted harshly, calling it a form of “voter suppression.”
But Tallahassee Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, a Democrat, spoke in support of the measure. He said it takes longer for first-class mail delivery from the United States Postal Service, and that it is appropriate to move up the deadlines for vote-by-mail ballots.
Paul Lux, a Republican from Okaloosa County and the president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, also strongly supported the legislation.
The proposal would also increase the time when voters can remedy a ballot that’s been questioned because the signature on the ballot doesn’t match the one on file at the Supervisor of Elections office. Current law says such a ballot “cure” has to happen by 5 p.m. on the day before Election Day. The legislation would extend that time until 48 hours after the election. It would also require that a Supervisor of Elections send a first-class letter to voters if the signature on a vote-by-mail ballot is questioned. They would also be able to notify them by email or text message.
The legislation also calls for there to be “formal” signature matching training for supervisors of elections and county canvassing board members, who are tasked with reviewing questionable ballots.
The bill also moves up by one week the date of the August primary election, adding an extra week to the general election campaign.
The bill also allows voters to take “selfies” of their own ballots – but voters can’t take pictures of other voters or polling locations.