If you voted absentee in the 2008 general election, but were planning to vote at the polls this Tuesday, you may be in for a surprise when you get there. You may be told that you cannot cast a regular ballot because you have already received an absentee ballot in the mail. This could happen even though you didn’t specifically request an absentee ballot for this election and even though you haven’t actually received one in the mail.
Why? Because in 2008, for the first time, voters requesting an absentee ballot were able to indicate that they wanted to receive one for all elections in the next four years. Many voters may not have been aware that they were signing up to automatically receive absentee ballots or they may have forgotten that they did so. Even more problematic is the fact that many of these “automatic” absentee voters have not actually received an absentee ballot in the mail. By law, absentee ballots are not forwardable. Thus, voters who have moved will not receive their absentee ballot even if they have filed a change of address with the post office to have their mail forwarded. This is true also for voters who have had their mail forwarded during a temporary absence-such as Florida residents who live elsewhere in the summer. Unless these voters have filed an address change with the elections office, their ballots will be returned as undeliverable.
In Volusia County, the elections office says that more than 1,200 absentee ballots mailed for this election have been returned as undeliverable. As of August 18, fewer than 12,000 of the more than 32,000 absentee ballots mailed out had been voted and returned.
If you were mailed an absentee ballot and wish to vote a regular ballot at the polls, you will be required to hand over your absentee ballot to the poll workers so that it can be cancelled before you can vote. If you don’t have it with you or never received it, poll workers will attempt to contact the elections office to verify that your ballot has not been received. If they reach the elections office and are able to confirm that the ballot has not been returned yet, you will be able to cast a regular ballot. If not, you will be required to cast a provisional ballot. After the election, the county canvassing board will determine whether to count those ballots.
To all Florida voters who voted by absentee ballot in 2008 but plan to vote at the polls this year: Make sure you take your absentee ballot with you so that it can be cancelled. If you didn’t receive your absentee ballot, contact your county elections office to determine if one was sent to you.
If you live in Volusia County, you can contact the elections office at the following numbers: 386-254-4690 (east Volusia), 736-5930 (west Volusia), 423-3311 (southeast Volusia), and 594-0598, ext. 5930 (Osteen). For hearing disabled voters, the TDD number is 1-800-955-8771. You can also track your absentee ballot status at the Volusia Elections website, www.volusia.org/elections. Just click on the Absentee Status button in the top right-hand corner.