One thing we can all agree on: Every vote deserves to be counted. If a citizen has gone to the trouble to cast a ballot, that ballot must be part of the official tally.
Now, as Florida braces for not one, not two, but three recounts, massive efforts are being made to gather and deliver all outstanding absentee ballots.
Thousands are out there, uncounted or ready to be thrown out on a technicality like an unmatched signature. Voters have until 5 p.m. today (Thursday, Nov. 8) to check in with their supervisors of election to correct any issues that cause their ballot to be rejected.
This isn't about partisanship but about working within the process – a process that is absurdly complex and can be fraught with uncertainty for the average voter.
Here's an account from our former web editor of her efforts to vote absentee and to confirm that her vote was actually part of the tally. How many of us have the time or tenacity (or Facebook connections!) to pursue the issue with this much perseverance? Exercising our Constitutional right to choose our representatives should not be this difficult. — JBY
I started voting absentee because of social anxiety. Look, I know it’s kind of a bullshit excuse, but I was recently divorced and terrified for some reason that I would get to the polls and be turned away. So, I logic-ed that there would be no hassle if I just mailed it in!
Total. Logic. Fail.
Don’t get me wrong, it worked well for a bit. But THIS year, welp, it did not.
I mailed in my ballot with a week or so to go before the deadline, went online after a reasonable amount of time had passed and checked to make sure my ballot was accepted. I saw that it was and moved on with my life, satisfied that my vote counted.
Then Monday, November 5th (the day before the election), I got home from work (after 5 p.m.!) and checked the mail and was greeted with a green envelope from Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles. Inside was a letter, a form and another envelope.
The letter basically said that, while my vote-by-mail ballot was received, the “signature on the Voter’s ___ portion of the return envelope, however, does not match your signature on file. As a result, your ballot will not be counted by the Canvassing Board until your issue is cured.”
Then it went on to say, “You may not receive another ballot for this election.” Then
it explains that I can “cure” this issue by completing the form provided, making a copy of my identification and returning it in person or via regular mail or email. Easy, right? Unfortunately the deadline to do this was 5 p.m., the day before the election – in other words, the deadline was already past.
What the fuck? How was I supposed to fix this? How could I make sure my vote got counted?
So, I did what everyone else does nowadays: I bitched on Facebook. Then I went online again to check the status of my ballot. It still showed “accepted.” I called the number provided on the letter to find out what was actually going on.
I was on hold for a lot less time than I anticipated, honestly.
I spoke to one person who asked my first name, birth date, last name and address. When presented with this info, she said, "Oh yeah, your vote is accepted" … with very little confidence.
So I asked her, "So what about this big scary letter with bold print that I received YESTERDAY?" (I didn't use those exact words.) She said, "Yeah, your signature was rejected, but you just have to get that fixed before the next election."
I said, "That is not at all what this letter says."
She said, "I don't know what else to tell you."
I dejectedly said, "OK" and hung up.
I had zero confidence in this conversation.
Luckily, one of my friends tagged Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph on my post and he jumped into action. I sent him a pic of the letter and the short version of my story. He’s a busy fella, though, and was unable to that jumping into action thing until later in the afternoon.
Which left me to obsess all day over my vote and if it even counted. I knew this election was so important
. I put in the research to be an informed voter, to do my part to push forward the change I wanted to see.
I’m not one to sit and wait, though, so eventually, I called the “customer service” number again. It didn’t go much better than the first call.
I went through the same thing: Gave 'em my first name. Gave 'em my birthday. Blah blah. The woman says, "Looks like your vote is accepted?" (with that up-lilting question mark voice.)
Then I asked about the letter I received, quoting specifically the part that said, "Your ballot will not be counted by the canvassing board, unless (underlined) your signature issue is cured." I also quoted her the part that said, "You may not receive another ballot for this election."
Then, she got sassy on me, but, like, in a good way, and said, "Who sent that letter to you?!" Like she thought some side-eyed, shady shit was going down. My reply, of course, was, "Bill Cowles, Orange County Supervisor of Elections." She seemed SHOCKED. Like … she seemingly had no idea these letters were going out.
Then all of a sudden, she changed her tactic, telling me not to worry, that EVERYONE who votes by mail gets this letter. That it's just in case someone got in an accident and their signature changed. Or if they get older and their signature looks shaky and different from when they were a young spritely thing. Or if their HAND IS TIRED THAT DAY (yes, she said this to me). But don't worry, everyone gets this scary YOUR VOTE DOESN’T COUNT letter and I shouldn't worry my grey li'l head about it.
But again, she assured (?) me that it looks like my vote was … accepted? … and I should have nothing to worry about.
So I decided that I might as well email that form in, just in case it could be counted or fixed or whatever. In the email, I fully explained my situation and was meticulous in making sure I filled out the form exactly as requested and attached all additional required documents.
Then Scott Randolph’s help paid off. He emailed both the Supervisor and Director of Elections, explaining what was going on, with a copy of my letter attached. Within about an hour, I received an email from Director of Elections Cindy Clark that said, "Every indication in the system says it was accepted on the 4th of November, so all good!"
So, I moved forward on Election Day with the feeling that my vote counts.
However, now that the election is over, I'm gonna do whatever I can to make sure that no one goes through this bullshit again.
Also, no more mail-in votes for me, unless it is my literal only option.
Thankfully, I’m now at the “able to laugh about this ordeal” stage, because I got this email from “VBM Lead” first thing Wednesday morning:
“The deadline to turn in your affidavit to cure your ballot was Monday November 5th at 5 pm.
No shit, Jeanette.