Election misinformation abounds. We debunk 34 Florida myths

New myths and half-truths seem to pop up every election cycle

I Voted stickers. (Joe Raedle, 2020 Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Another election season is underway, and with it comes many myths and conspiracy theories about the whole process.

Things like:

  • If you leave a race blank on your ballot, your whole ballot won’t count.
  • If you wear campaign shirts or hats to the polling place, you’ll be turned away.
  • If you are registered for a political party, you can only vote for candidates in that party.

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New myths and half-truths seem to pop up every election cycle. Some of them stem from the fact that each state has different election rules and people don’t realize what may be true in one state is not true in another.

Some of them are malicious attempts to cause trouble and even stop people from voting.

Here is the truth about some of the top voting myths in Florida.

NOTE: The following is definitely the case in Florida, but may be different in other states.

“Who is allowed to vote?” myths

1. MYTH: If you don’t vote in every election, you will lose the right to vote.

THE TRUTH: You do not have to vote in every election. County elections officials might mark your registration as inactive if you fail to vote for two years and then don’t contact the elections office to confirm your address. But even then, an inactive voter just has to make that contact and they will be allowed to vote. They can even do it at the polls on Election Day. If you are marked as an inactive voter and then don’t vote in the next four years (two general elections), then your registration is canceled. But even then, you just have to reregister.

2. MYTH: If you don’t speak English, you can’t vote.

THE TRUTH: In Florida, counties are required to publish ballots in English and Spanish. Ballots may be available in other languages, depending on U.S. census data. If you need language assistance, you can contact your county supervisor of elections office for help. You can also bring someone to the polling place to help you with your ballot.

3. MYTH: Foreigners with legal U.S. residence can vote in elections.

THE TRUTH: Only U.S. citizens, either by birth or naturalized, may vote in elections in Florida.

4. MYTH: Puerto Ricans cannot vote because they are not U.S. citizens.

THE TRUTH: As Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. If someone from Puerto Rico moves to Florida, they will be able to register for and vote in Florida elections without needing to do anything extra. This is true for other U.S. territories as well.

5. MYTH: If you are homeless, you can’t vote.

THE TRUTH: If you have an effective mailing address where you can receive messages, and plan to stay in that area, you can be assigned a voting precinct. Check with your county supervisor of elections for help.

6. MYTH: If your home is in foreclosure, you can’t vote.

THE TRUTH: If you are still living in the house, whether it’s in foreclosure doesn’t matter, you can still vote. If you are not living in the house, you need to change your address, but that will not stop you from voting.

7. MYTH: If you’re a student, you need to make your college address your permanent address in order to vote.

THE TRUTH: If you’re away at school, you only need to change your permanent address if that is where you wish to vote. If you want to leave your home as your permanent address, you can do that. But you must either travel to your home precinct or request a vote-by-mail ballot in order to vote, and you will vote in whatever elections are set for that address.

8. MYTH: Students who vote in an election could see their college financial aid affected.

THE TRUTH: Voting will not affect any federal financial aid. You should check with your scholarship’s administrator though to see if changing your voter registration will affect the status of a scholarship that is location-based.

9. MYTH: Convicted felons cannot vote.

THE TRUTH: Nonviolent convicted felons can have their voting rights in Florida automatically restored if they completed their sentences, which includes all prison or parole time and any and all court fees or monetary payments. Other felons must have their voting rights restored by the state clemency board.

10. MYTH: If you owe back child support or have outstanding warrants, you can be arrested if you try to vote.

THE TRUTH: Voter rolls have no information about such matters and law enforcement officers are not supposed to enter a polling place unless summoned by poll workers.

Voter ID and Registration Myths

11. MYTH: You must have a Florida driver’s license in order to vote.

THE TRUTH: You need a form of identification in order to vote with a picture and a signature. It does not need to be a Florida driver’s license.

The following forms of picture identification are allowed if they are current:

  • Florida driver’s license
  • Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
  • United States passport
  • Military identification
  • Student identification
  • Retirement center identification
  • Neighborhood association identification
  • Public assistance identification

12. MYTH: You must have your voter identification card with you in order to vote.

THE TRUTH: When you register to vote, you will get a voter information card. It is not a voter identification card, and it is not required at the polling place. It can’t even be used as a form of identification in order to vote. The only purpose is to verify your information and let you know your polling place and district assignments.

13. MYTH: If you move, your voter registration moves with you.

THE TRUTH: It doesn’t matter where you move, whether from out of state or within the state, your voter registration does not follow you. You must make sure to register in the county you live in.

[RESULTS 2022: Everything you need to know about elections in Florida | Florida is a closed primary state: How you can vote in a party primary | How to make sure you are eligible to vote in Florida]

Ballot Myths

14. MYTH: You can call, text or email in your vote.

THE TRUTH: You cannot do any of these things. You can only vote in person or send your vote via regular mail.

15. MYTH: The position of the candidates on the ballot shows favoritism to one political party over another.

THE TRUTH: In Florida, the order of candidates on the ballot is determined by whichever political party won the last gubernatorial election. Since Gov. DeSantis is a Republican, Republican candidates will be the first names in each race on the ballot, followed by Democrats, then minor party candidates, then no party affiliation candidates, then a spot for write-in candidates, if any.

16. MYTH: If you are a member of a political party, you can only vote for candidates from that party.

THE TRUTH: The only time your political party matters in an election is during a party primary. In nonpartisan and general elections, you can vote for whoever you want, regardless of party.

17. MYTH: If you voted in a primary, you can’t vote in a general election.

THE TRUTH: Primaries and general elections are two separate elections. In Florida, we may have elections at any time during the year. You are permitted to vote for any and all elections in which you are in the proper jurisdiction, be it a local election, a state election or a federal election.

18. MYTH: If you make a mistake on your ballot, you can’t change it.

THE TRUTH: As long as you have not turned in your ballot, if you make a mistake you can exchange it for a new one. This includes mail-in ballots.

19. MYTH: If you leave a race blank on your ballot, your whole ballot won’t count.

THE TRUTH: You do not have to vote on every race on the ballot. If you vote on only one race, that vote will count.

20. MYTH: You can write in any name on your ballot and your vote will count toward that person.

THE TRUTH: Every year there are lots of votes for Mickey Mouse. None of those votes count toward anything. In Florida, only write-in candidates that are registered as such with the state will have any write-in votes for their name count. To our knowledge, Mickey Mouse has never been a candidate for political office in real life.

21. MYTH: Early votes and vote-by-mail ballots only count in close races.

THE TRUTH: In Florida, early votes and vote by mail ballots are among the first to be counted and are just as important as Election Day votes.

22. MYTH: Provisional ballots only count in close races.

THE TRUTH: Provisional ballots are merely ballots that require extra scrutiny from the county canvassing board, but if they are approved, they are counted as regular ballots toward the vote total.

23. MYTH: Hackers can change votes.

THE TRUTH: Florida’s voting system is highly decentralized and localized. The only time the system is connected to a network is when votes are transmitted. Florida election officials say the system is designed to make it impossible for hackers to change votes.

Vote by Mail Myths

24. MYTH: Vote-by-mail ballots and absentee ballots are not the same thing.

THE TRUTH: Some candidates in the 2020 election tried to confuse voters about these terms. But let’s be clear: In Florida, we have vote-by-mail ballots. We used to call them absentee ballots, but we changed the name years ago. Nothing about the ballots changed other than the name. They were the same thing in Florida.

25. MYTH: You have to have a reason to vote by mail.

THE TRUTH: This might be true in some states, but it is not the case in Florida. All you have to do is request a ballot with your county supervisor of elections office. You don’t need a specific reason to vote by mail.

26. MYTH: You can only return your own vote-by-mail ballot.

THE TRUTH: In the state of Florida, you are legally allowed to drop off your ballot, your family members’ ballots, and the ballots of up to two non-family members.

27. MYTH: If you do not have enough postage on your vote-by-mail return envelope, it will not be delivered.

THE TRUTH: Many Central Florida counties already offer a return postage paid envelope for vote-by-mail ballots. However, if you are in a county where you must pay for postage to mail in a ballot, and you did not get sufficient postage, the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections office said any postage due charges will be billed to your county’s elections office and your ballot will still be delivered.

28. MYTH: Vote-by-mail ballots can be falsified and sent in to benefit a candidate.

THE TRUTH: In Florida, there are systems in place to prevent ballot stuffing with vote-by-mail ballots. County elections offices have ways to tell how many ballots are issued and how many ballots are returned, and what ballots there are. So you can’t just order a bunch of vote-by-mail ballots from, say, China, and mail them in.

Polling Place Myths

29. MYTH: Anyone can stop you from voting.

THE TRUTH: There are poll monitors who can challenge your vote. But they cannot make frivolous challenges, and in fact, can be fined for doing so. Moreover, even if your vote faces a challenge, you will be given a provisional ballot, which the county elections office will check against your records to make sure you are allowed to vote.

30. MYTH: The polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day and if you are still in line, you won’t be allowed to vote.

THE TRUTH: As long as you are standing in line to vote at a polling place by 7 p.m. on Election Day, you will be allowed to vote. Polling places must allow everyone in line the chance to vote.

31. MYTH: No one can be at the voting booth with you, including children.

THE TRUTH: As long as you are the only person voting, you can take children into the voting booth, and other adults who can help you if needed.

32. MYTH: You can’t take any materials with you to the voting booth.

THE TRUTH: County supervisor elections offices send out sample ballots so you can make your choices ahead of time. You can take election guides, sample ballots and any other materials you need to make an informed decision.

33. MYTH: You can’t take any pictures in the voting booth.

THE TRUTH: The Florida Legislature now allows voters to take pictures of their ballot – and only their ballot – in the voting booth.

34. MYTH: If you wear campaign shirts or hats to the polling place, you’ll be turned away.

THE TRUTH: Go ahead and wear your campaign buttons and shirts and hats. As long as you are not actively campaigning, you are allowed to wear your campaign memorabilia to the polling place.

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About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.