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florida > The Florida Election Code > Voting Methods And Procedure

§ 101.65 Instructions to absent electors

Statute

The supervisor shall enclose with each vote-by-mail ballot separate printed instructions in substantially the following form:

READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY
BEFORE MARKING BALLOT.

1. VERY IMPORTANT. In order to ensure that your vote-by-mail ballot will be counted, it should be completed and returned as soon as possible so that it can reach the supervisor of elections of the county in which your precinct is located no later than 7 p.m. on the day of the election. However, if you are an overseas voter casting a ballot in a presidential preference primary or general election, your vote-by-mail ballot must be postmarked or dated no later than the date of the election and received by the supervisor of elections of the county in which you are registered to vote no later than 10 days after the date of the election.

2. Mark your ballot in secret as instructed on the ballot. You must mark your own ballot unless you are unable to do so because of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write.

3. Mark only the number of candidates or issue choices for a race as indicated on the ballot. If you are allowed to “Vote for One” candidate and you vote for more than one candidate, your vote in that race will not be counted.

4. Place your marked ballot in the enclosed secrecy envelope.

5. Insert the secrecy envelope into the enclosed mailing envelope which is addressed to the supervisor.

6. Seal the mailing envelope and completely fill out the Voter’s Certificate on the back of the mailing envelope.

7. VERY IMPORTANT. In order for your vote-by-mail ballot to be counted, you must sign your name on the line above (Voter’s Signature). A vote-by-mail ballot will be considered illegal and not be counted if the signature on the voter’s certificate does not match the signature on record. The signature on file at the start of the canvass of the vote-by-mail ballots is the signature that will be used to verify your signature on the voter’s certificate. If you need to update your signature for this election, send your signature update on a voter registration application to your supervisor of elections so that it is received no later than the start of the canvassing of vote-by-mail ballots, which occurs no earlier than the 15th day before election day.

8. VERY IMPORTANT. If you are an overseas voter, you must include the date you signed the Voter’s Certificate on the line above (Date) or your ballot may not be counted.

9. Mail, deliver, or have delivered the completed mailing envelope. Be sure there is sufficient postage if mailed.

10. FELONY NOTICE. It is a felony under Florida law to accept any gift, payment, or gratuity in exchange for your vote for a candidate. It is also a felony under Florida law to vote in an election using a false identity or false address, or under any other circumstances making your ballot false or fraudulent.

s. 5, ch. 7380, 1917; RGS 372; CGL 433; s. 1, ch. 25385, 1949; s. 5, ch. 26870, 1951; s. 35, ch. 28156, 1953; s. 23, ch. 29934, 1955; s. 34, ch. 65-380; s. 4, ch. 71-149; s. 9, ch. 72-63; s. 2, ch. 73-105; s. 7, ch. 73-157; ss. 3, 4, ch. 75-174; s. 23, ch. 77-175; s. 2, ch. 81-106; s. 10, ch. 81-304; s. 11, ch. 82-143; s. 7, ch. 83-251; s. 3, ch. 85-226; s. 2, ch. 86-33; s. 589, ch. 95-147; s. 5, ch. 96-57; s. 16, ch. 98-129; s. 33, ch. 99-2; s. 54, ch. 2001-40; s. 20, ch. 2003-415; s. 2, ch. 2004-232; s. 38, ch. 2011-40; s. 12, ch. 2013-57; s. 18, ch. 2016-37.
Note.Former s. 101.05.
Annotation: October 11, 2016 10:08 pm

The Florida Democratic Party recently sued to stop the practice of election officials tossing vote by mail ballots if the signature on the ballot envelope does not match the one on file. Plaintiffs are asking for a preliminary injunction enjoining the state from rejecting these vote-by-mail ballots. A copy of their motion is available here: http://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=00000157-8c74-d51f-adf7-ae7592a00000. Florida is an outlier with respect to this law. Other states, including Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, notify voters and allow them to rectify the discrepancy. A hearing is set for Oct. 14, 2016.

This hearing was cancelled after Fla. Secretary of State Detzner notified the court that no witnesses or evidence would be present at Monday’s hearing. The judge accused Detzner of delaying the hearing so that he could run out the clock so there wouldn’t be enough time to address problems raised in the lawsuit before the November election. The judge decided to issue a ruling in the case (see below) without a hearing. For further reading, see http://electionlawblog.org/?p=87546.

Annotation: October 17, 2016 3:04 pm

On Oct. 16, 2016, the district court in the N.D. of Fla. granted the preliminary injunction, applying strict scrutiny and finding Florida’s statutory scheme, which provides no opportunity to cure mismatched-signature ballots, unconstitutional under the equal protection clause. The case is Fla. Democratic Party v. Detzner. For further reading, see http://electionlawblog.org/?p=87570.

Definition [Supervisor]

The supervisor of elections.

Definition [Overseas Voter]

(a) An absent uniformed services voter who, by reason of active duty or service, is absent from the United States on the date of the election involved;

(b) A person who resides outside the United States and is qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States; or

(c) A person who resides outside the United States and, but for such residence, would be qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States.

Definition [General Election]

An election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in the even-numbered years, for the purpose of filling national, state, county, and district offices and for voting on constitutional amendments not otherwise provided for by law.

Definition [Secrecy Envelope]

As used in the Electronic Voting Systems Act, secrecy envelope means an opaque device, used for enclosing a marked ballot, which conceals the voter’s choices.

Definition [Issue]

A proposition that is required by the State Constitution, by law or resolution of the Legislature, or by the charter, ordinance, or resolution of a political subdivision of this state to be submitted to the electors for their approval or rejection at an election, or a proposition for which a petition is circulated in order to have such proposition placed on the ballot at an election.

Definition [Ballot]

As used in the Electronic Voting Systems Act, ballot means the card, tape, or other vehicle upon which the elector’s choices are recorded.

Definition [Election]

Any primary election, special primary election, special election, general election, or presidential preference primary election.

Definition [Candidate]

Any person to whom any one or more of the following applies:

(a) Any person who seeks to qualify for nomination or election by means of the petitioning process.
(b) Any person who seeks to qualify for election as a write-in candidate.
(c) Any person who receives contributions or makes expenditures, or gives his or her consent for any other person to receive contributions or make expenditures, with a view to bringing about his or her nomination or election to, or retention in, public office.
(d) Any person who appoints a treasurer and designates a primary depository.
(e) Any person who files qualification papers and subscribes to a candidate’s oath as required by law.
This definition does not include any candidate for a political party executive committee.

Cases

florida Cases

Out-of-State Cases

Federal Cases

Case Name: Fla. Democratic Party v. Detzner

Case Number: No. 4:16cv607-MW/CAS

Federal District Court: Northern District of Florida

Year: 2016

Case PDF: Fla. Democratic Party v. Detzner

Case Summary: Holding that Florida's statutory scheme, denying voters the opportunity to cure mail-in ballots on which the signature does not match the signature on file from the registration process, is unconstitutional.

Additional Resources

Useful Links

  • Fla. Democratic Party Challenges Tossing of Vote-by-Mail Ballots if Signatures Don't Match (Complaint) Complaint

  • Fla. Democratic Party Challenges Tossing of Vote-by-Mail Ballots if Signatures Don't Match (Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction) Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction