Florida: Absentee Balloting Problems Predominate
The 2004 presidential elections in Florida once again revealed systemic problems that must be corrected before Florida can be considered to have free and fair elections. Many of the problems, such as votes being rejected from eligible voters who cast a provisional ballot in the wrong precinct, were predictable. But others, such as the massive disfranchisement caused by delays in mailing absentee ballots, were less expected.
Absentee balloting problems on November 2 accounted for 13.4% of all Florida voting incidents recorded in the Election Incident Reporting System — the Election Protection Coalition’s database. The most prevalent type of absentee ballot-related complaint fielded by the ACLU of Florida involved voters who received their absentee ballots too late, or not at all. Other complaints involved confusing postage, return envelope formatting that caused mail delays, and absentee ballots from eligible voters being rejected on hyper-technical terms.
The battle to protect the right to vote in Florida takes place on many fronts, and includes on-going campaigns for voter-verified audit trails for touch-screen voting machines, eliminating the correct precinct requirement for provisional balloting, ensuring proper implementation of voter ID requirements, and more. But the 2004 elections illustrated that protecting the right to vote is an evolving and changing endeavor that requires our continued vigilance.
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