Florida election supervisors balk at implementing new ID provisions in vote-by-mail ballots

By: - January 30, 2023 3:20 pm

People waiting to vote in the elections. Credit: Getty Images

Florida election supervisors are objecting to a provision in an election law passed last year that if enacted would require voters to include some form of personal identification information when submitting their vote-by-mail ballot.

The supervisors say the idea will create additional costs and logistical challenges, according to a January report on the issue.

Here’s what happened:

As part of the 2022 election reform package (SB 524), the Florida Department of State was tasked to produce a workable plan for how a voter could include some personal ID information — such as a driver license number, Florida identification card number or part of a Social Security number — on their return envelope when submitting a mail ballot to ensure voter integrity.

The plan and draft legislation for any changes to state law were to be submitted to the Speaker of the House and Senate President by Wednesday, February 1.

A work group was commissioned by Mark Earley, the president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections. It was chaired by Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley and included 13 other supervisors of elections from across Florida.

The group viewed the situation as “unnecessary and lacking adequate feasibility for implementation,” according to the report.

It added that the provisions to include an extra envelopewould result in delays that will rankle the respective election stakeholders, to include voters, the public, media and candidates.”

People line up to early vote at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department polling site on October 30, 2020. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In addition, the supervisors’ work group said that protecting mail ballot voters’ personally identifiable information is of “paramount concern” when requiring voters to write this information on their certificate envelopes. Therefore, to do so would require including an additional return mailing envelope to protect the certificate, or creating a new certificate envelope with a larger flap, that once sealed, protects the information.

Additionally, the supervisors believe that requiring such additional information will likely lead to more voting errors.

And even if the information is legible and accurate, they say another issue emerges: the fact that most voters in Florida register at Tax Collector’s offices when getting a driver license, which results in that driver’s license number being the personal ID information which is collected in their voter file.

Yet most voters tend to provide the last four digits of their Social Security numbers when asked to verify their identity, leading to a disparity in which supervisors say that they wouldn’t be equipped to deal with, according to the report.

Also, supervisors say, voters have no option to “cure” or fix their ballot if a voter failed to provide such information, write it illegibly or provide different information than on file. They say that if the Legislature were to allow such core options, they would then contact voters the way that they currently do now to inform them that their ballot needs curing. But without increasing the deadline, “timely certification may be jeopardized.”

Florida voters currently have until 5 p.m. on the Thursday after Election Day to cure their vote-by-mail ballots.

Now that the report has been submitted to legislative leaders, it’s not clear at this point if the Legislature will address the issue in the upcoming session that begins in March.

The requirement for voters to include parts of their driver’s license or Social Security numbers when they submit their vote-by-mail ballot was originally included in last year’s election legislation, but was met with opposition by several election supervisors at that time, with one calling it “a recipe for disaster” and another as “problematic.” That led to the bill sponsors instead directing election officials to research the feasibility, development and implementation of such a plan.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.