In 2016, a federal judge forced Florida to make sure voters were notified of problems with mail-in ballot signatures. This year lawmakers want to make the change permanent.
- Bills would resolve signature "mismatch" on mail-in ballot
- Requires county supervisors to let voters know if there's a problem
- Thousands of ballots thrown out in 2012
The measures (HB 105/SB 544) would require county election supervisors to allow voters whose ballots have been flagged for a signature "mismatch" to correct the problem by completing a signed affidavit.
During the 2012 election, more than 23,000 mail-in ballots were invalidated because they bore signatures that didn't match those held on file by supervisors.
"Sometimes it's due to circumstances beyond their control: Parkinson's disease, degenerative muscle diseases, problems with loss of vision," said Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Hollywood). "Signatures can change gradually or rapidly. So, those folks that fall into that category, when their signatures don't match up, for whatever the reason, they'll be able to come in and seek a remedy for it and have their ballot counted."
The House bill, which unanimously passed the chamber's Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee Thursday, would mandate that supervisors contact voters if their mail-in ballot has been found to have a signature mismatch issue.
While many supervisors have longstanding policies of contacting mismatch voters and allowing them to "cure" the problem, there is currently no legal requirement -- as there is in the case of missing signatures -- to do so.
In his October opinion directing Gov. Rick Scott's administration, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote that not letting voters resolve the signature mismatch would amount to, "taking as many as 23,000 ballots, crumbling them into balls, and throwing them in the trash like dirty tissue, without any opportunity to cure."
Walker also noted that his ruling, rendered as part of a lawsuit brought by the Florida Democratic Party, should be viewed as a precedent to legislative action.