Why your Florida vote may not count

1 in 50 absentee ballots likely to be disqualified in Sunshine State

Author: Erik von Ancken, Anchor/Reporter, evonancken@clickorlando.com
Published On: Oct 31 2012 05:23:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Nov 01 2012 09:37:15 AM EDT
ORLANDO, Fla. -

Amid concerns from voters, Orange County's Supervisor of Elections told Local 6 that less than 2 percent of returned absentee ballots may not be counted because signatures cannot be verified.

As of Wednesday, the county has received about 75,000 ballots, so according to that statistic, 1,500 of those ballots would not count.

However, Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles insisted that his office always gives the voter the benefit of the doubt.

"I think every election official and canvassing board wants to work to make sure every eligible vote can be cast,” said Cowles. "And under the new state law we have to compare the signature to the most recent voter registration with a signature on it."

Cowles showed Local 6 his $300,000 signature verification machine that automatically scans ballots and compares the signature to the one on file entered during voter registration.

Cowles said if the machine cannot find a match, then staffers examine the ballot. If staffers cannot make a determination, then supervisors at Cowles' office review the ballot. If all else fails, the ballot goes to the canvassing board made up of two judges and a county commissioner. The canvassing board has the final say.

In order to vote in Florida, residents are required to present two pieces of identification showing a picture and a signature. One ID that contains both pieces of information, such as a driver's license, is acceptable.

Many people are choosing to vote at the polls or at early voting locations because workers can easily verify your signature since the voter is appearing in person.

Gary Greenip voted early on Wednesday at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office.

"I wanted to come down and sign it in front of somebody. I wanted to make sure my vote counted," said Greenip. "It was important. I didn't want it to get kicked out because my signature from 14 years ago didn't match up with today."

Cowles said that over the years, signatures often change or some people choose to use a short version of a longer signature. Some ballots are not signed at all, according to Cowles.

In Florida in 2000, Al Gore lost the presidential election to George Bush by 537 votes, showing that the uncounted 1,500 votes could mean the difference of who is elected president.

"I wanted to make sure I put it in the machine myself, and I hit finish. So my vote is counted,” said Ramona Anderson, who voted early with her brother Ken Richards.

Wednesday was the last day absentee ballots can be mailed to voters.