New Florida Bill on Overseas Voting

The Florida Legislature is considering a bill to aid overseas voting by expanding the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to State and local elections.

On March 10, 2015, the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections committee unanimously voted SB 184 out of committee.  Paul Lux, Florida Election Administrator of Okaloosa County, pushed the Florida Legislature to adopt the bill “to ensure that our overseas military personnel can vote in every state and local election that they qualify for.” Specifically, the bill amends sections 1 and 2 of s. 101.6952, F.S.

The amended section 1 allows any overseas registered Florida voter to use the federal write-in absentee ballot (FWAB) in any Florida election for which they qualify. The remainder of the amended section 1 outlines the specific policies and contingencies for certain circumstances. Spelling and other errors will not disqualify a vote. The vote will count so long as the voter made clear their choice. In the case of a joint candidacy, such as President and Vice President, indicating one name counts as a vote for the joint pair. A voter can also use the FWAB for ballot initiatives and judicial retention elections so long as the voter indicates on the ballot. The bill also delays canvasing. In presidential general elections and presidential primaries, the ballots postmarked no later than the day of the election and received no later than 10 days after the election date will be canvassed.

The amended section 2 involves manual recounts regarding FWAB. The bill will accept U.S. Department of State rules on FWAB provided the rules meet certain criteria. First, the rules must not: 1) Exclusively provide that the voter must properly mark or designate his or her choice on the ballot; 2) Contain a catch-all provision that fails to identify specific standards, such as “any other mark or indication clearly indicating that the voter has made a definite choice.” Second, the rules must adhere to 8 other criteria. The 8 criteria allow the voter to indicate the candidate of choice by using first or last name only, political party, abbreviations, or other symbols to indicate the candidate. The bill would go into effect on July 1, 2015.