Voting by mail isn’t an unfamiliar process

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Anyone wavering with a decision whether to vote by mail in the upcoming election should do so with the same confidence they display in paying bills by mail.

That approach, according to the League of Women Voters of Florida, should reduce concerns about the reliability of the process.

“I understand that we are in an on-line world, but many Floridians still send their checks to the utility companies or the cable companies in the mail,” said Patricia Bingham, president of the League. “It’s very simple to go to the post office and get stamps. It’s very easy to go to your early voting center and drop the ballot into the drop box.”

Patricia Brigham

Brigham said the League of Women Voters decided to launch its campaign for voting by mail because of uncertainty created by the coronavirus. That has created concern about individuals who might not want to work polling sites for fear of the pandemic.

Recent primaries that had long lines around the country, including Georgia, could be an indication of what could transpire on Election Day, Brigham said. Voting by mail could alleviate issues that make getting to the poll difficult, Brigham said.   

The vote by mail option also is a way to ensure that senior citizens get to participate in the process.

“Making voting easily accessible to registered voters in the United State is part of a fair democracy,” she said. “It’s absolutely critical that Floridians and all Americans vote in this extremely important election.”

There has been plenty of pushback against voting by mail, though. 

President Donald Trump is one of the biggest adversaries against voting by mail. His contentions include ballots being stolen from mailboxes and he’s also claimed that Democrat could use the process to prevent Republicans from winning the election.

Despite the fears, research has proven that voting by mail doesn’t give either party an edge. About 33 million people vote by mail or by absentee ballot, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. 

Mark Earley

More than 30 states and the District of Columbia are allowing electorate to vote by mail, which has been practiced for more than 20 years.

“We believe that voting early or voting by mail is the best way to vote during this pandemic,” said Brigham, adding that 250 million votes were cast by mail-in ballots since 2000 in all 50 states. “Americans have been casting ballots by mail for quite some time. In the past several elections, roughly one out of every four Americans cast a mail-in ballot.”

In addition to sending ballots by mail, drop boxes will be available at early voting precincts or ballots could be dropped off to the supervisor’s office. The early voting date for the primaries is Aug. 8-15 and Oct. 24-31 for the general election. 

Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Mark Earley, said registered voters could ask for vote by mail ballots. However, they only get ballot if they request it. He suggested that in such cases that ballots be filled out immediately to avoid missing deadlines.

Earley and other elections officials in the state have been challenged in court over voting by mail.  Plaintiffs that include Priorities USA have been seeking an extension on the return deadline for mail-in ballots. They’re seeking free postage for the ballots, along with challenging a provision in Florida law restricting paid workers from collecting mail-in ballots, according to a News Service of Florida report.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle rejected the plaintiffs’ argument. However, they will get to make further argument during a July 20 trial.

The outcome isn’t expected to stop voting by mail and anyone who isn’t registered to vote has until July 20 in order to vote in the Aug. 18 primaries. The deadline for registering to vote in the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 5.

While encouraging voting by mail, Early said voters should go to to request a ballot. He also said that anyone who votes by mail would be flagged if they attempt to vote at a precinct. Mailed in ballots done correctly will be checked for signature match, Earley said.

Request for a vote by mail ballot should be made as early as a month before Election Day and up to 10 days before the election.