ORLANDO, Fla. – Mail-in voting has long been an option for Americans but with the coronavirus pandemic keeping some voters from visiting the polls in person, mail-in ballots are expected to be particularly popular this year.
In Florida, more than 5.9 million mail-in ballots were requested for the general election, according to the U.S. Elections Project, but with less than a week until Nov. 3, more than 1.9 million of those requested have not been returned.
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According to the Florida Division of Elections website, the United States Postal Service recommends voters mail back their ballots at least one week before the Election Day deadline to account for any delays or other unforeseen issues that may arise. If you requested a mail-in ballot but missed the suggested Oct. 27 deadline to get it back in the mail, you won’t want to try mailing it any later considering the USPS has recently reported delivery delays nationwide and your ballot must be returned to your county’s supervisor of elections by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted, regardless of when it was postmarked.
[NOTE: This interactive embed shows how much better or worse postal districts did at delivering First-Class Mail on time using the most recent data from the week of October 3.]
So now what? Well, you still have a few other options to make sure your vote is counted.
Drop your ballot off at an early voting site
Florida has mandatory early voting days this year from Oct. 24 through Oct. 31, though some counties offer additional early voting days so you’ll want to check with your local supervisor of elections office to find out when early voting is offered in your county. While early voting is underway, voters have the option to drop off their mail-in ballots at designated early voting sites. To find out which early voting sites are accepting mail-in ballot dropoffs in your county and for how long, click here and find your supervisor of elections' page.
Drop off your ballot off at your supervisor of elections office
Once early voting has wrapped up in your county, mail-in ballots will no longer be accepted at those locations. Voters can still deposit their mail-in ballots into a secure drop box at their supervisor of elections' office until 7 p.m. on Election Day, according to state election officials. Visit your county supervisors of elections' website for more information about secure dropoff opportunities.
Use another mailing method
This option may be considered more risky, especially as the Nov. 3 deadline gets closer, but voters don’t have to use the USPS to return their mail-in ballots. Mail-in ballots can be sent back to your supervisor of elections office through another private or commercial carrier as long as the ballot is received by the requisite deadline, according to the Florida Division of Elections website. If you’re worried your ballot won’t be delivered to your SOE by 7 p.m. on Election Day, it may be best to drop it off yourself or surrender it to vote in person.
Surrender your mail-in ballot to vote in person
If you don’t feel comfortable dropping your ballot off into a drop box or mailing it back, or you’ve just decided that you now want to vote in person, that is still an option. Voters can bring their marked or unmarked mail-in ballots to their polling place and turn it in to instead vote with a regular ballot, according to state officials. If you show up to the polls to vote in person and don’t bring your mail-in ballot with you for whatever reason, election officials will need to confirm you haven’t already voted. If they see that your mail-in ballot has already been returned and received, you will not be allowed to vote in person. If they find that your ballot has not been returned and received, you will be allowed to vote in person, according to the state’s election website. Click here for more information.
Bottom line: In order for your mail-in ballot to be counted, it must be received by your supervisor of elections by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, regardless of when it was postmarked. The only exception when it comes to untimely ballots is for military and overseas voters, for whom a 10-day extension exists only for presidential preference primary and general elections, provided the ballot is postmarked or dated by Election Day, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.
Florida voters who requested a mail-in ballot and mailed it back can track the status of their ballot here.
Election Day is Nov. 3.