Everything you need to know about Voting By Mail

Everything you need to know about Voting By Mail

Q: What is the difference between a Vote-By-Mail ballot and an Absentee Ballot?

A: Nothing. In Florida, the term "absentee ballot'' was replaced by ”vote by mail” in the state statutes in 2016, since Florida voters do not need an excuse (such as being absent) to vote by mail.

Q: Why do I have to have a ‘party affiliation’ to vote in partisan primary races?

A: Florida is a “Closed Primary” state. In order to vote in partisan races, a major party affiliation is required in Florida primary elections (R or D; there are no other major parties registered).

IMPORTANT: Only if a partisan race has no opponents from any other party can voters of all affiliations cast their ballots (including no party-affiliated voters). On August 18, this exception applied to the Miami-Dade State Attorney race of Rundle vs. Pearson.

Q: If I don’t have a party affiliation, can I still vote in the primary elections?

A: YES. But only in non-partisan races. That includes county commissioners, mayors, judges, property appraiser and ballot measures.

Q: What are some of the important things I need to know about Voting by Mail?

A: Follow these guidelines to ensure your vote is valid and counted:

- DON'T FORGET to sign the OUTSIDE of the VBM envelope!

- Fill out the ballot with BLACK or BLUE ink. No pencil or other colors.

- Mail your VBM ballot back to the Elections Department as soon as possible. It is the voter’s responsibility to ensure the ballot is received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

- Only fill in your own VBM ballot. Do not mix it up with another family member's ballot.

- Take into consideration the possibility that a high volume might slow down the Postal Service. Mail your ballot EARLY! The Election Department Staff is available to answer your questions. Contact them by phone at 305.499.VOTE(8683) or by email: VoteByMail@MiamiDade.gov or find more answers on their website 

Q: Is there a deadline to request a Vote-By-Mail Ballot?

A: Yes. Voters must request their VBM ballot not later than 5 p.m. 10 days before any election. For the upcoming election that’s August 8.

Q: If I request a Vote-By-Mail ballot, do I then have to vote by mail?

A: No. Requesting a VBM ballot allows you to vote by mail OR in person. Your options are: Mail your ballot; drop off your ballot at a voting location (early or on Election Day); vote in person.

Q: If I have a Vote-By-Mail ballot, but want to vote in person, what do I have to do?

A: If a voter has received a VBM ballot, but decides to vote in person, they can vote at any early voting location, or on Election Day at their precinct polling location. It is not necessary to bring the VBM ballot, but it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to avoid any challenges.

Q: I have already filled out my Vote-By-Mail ballot, but I am skeptical of the Postal Service. What is the safest way to submit my ballot?

A: Voters have several options to return their Vote-By-Mail ballots:

- Return your ballot by mail with plenty of time to arrive at the Election Department. Budget 4-5 days to be safe (weekends not included). Some voters use registered mail to confirm when their ballot was received. It is the voter’s responsibility to ensure the ballot is received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

If you do not want to mail your ballot:

- Hand in your VBM ballot in person at any early voting location in Miami-Dade County. Early voting starts August 3 and ends August 15.

- Hand in your VBM ballot on August 18, Election Day, at your precinct's voting location. Polls are open from 7 a. m. to 7 p.m.

- You can also drop off your VBM ballot in person at the Election Department on 2700 NW 87 Avenue, Miami 33172.

- You can have a DESIGNEE drop off your ballot for you. Follow the steps outlined by the Department of Elections.

- All VBM ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to be legitimate and be counted.

Q: Is it safe to vote by mail?

A: Yes. The Miami-Dade Department of Elections has implemented many safety measures to ensure the integrity of vote-by-mail voting. Voters can track their ballot online.

Q: Where can I learn more about the process of Voting By Mail?

A: Please view this Info video by the Miami-Dade Department of Election. If you have additional questions, call the Elections Department (305) 499-VOTE (8683).

Q: Why should I vote by mail?

A: There are several good reasons why voting by mail is a good idea.

- You receive your ballot approximately 3-4 weeks prior to Election Day. This gives you time to review the ballot, ask questions, inform yourself about candidates, judges and other positions -- as well as ballot measures. You can make these decisions in the comfort of your home and with plenty of time to make an informed choice.

- In case of illness, the fear of infection (COVID-19) or an unexpected absence (travel), you have the option to mail in your ballot.

- Voter turnout goes up by about 12-28% (depending on the voters demographic) when a Vote-By-Mail ballot is requested. That means approximately one quarter more voters participate in the democratic process of selecting their representatives.

It's a safe, comfortable and convenient way to vote.

Q: What can I do if there is a PROBLEM with my Vote-By-Mail ballot?

A: Once the Department of Elections receives your ballot and finds a problem, you will be notified of the problem and offered an opportunity to “cure your ballot.” The most common issue is that the signature on your envelope does not match the Election Department's records. To correct your signature:

- fill out the form (Spanish/Creole) and return it to the Department of Elections no later than 5 p.m. the second day after the election.

- You can drop off the form in person at 2700 NW 87 Avenue, Miami 33172, email it to vbmaffidavits@miamidade.gov, or fax it to (305) 275-7760.

Questions? Call the Dept. of Elections (305) 499-VOTE(8683)

We recommend taking a photo of your form before surrendering it.

Q: For how long does my Vote-By-Mail request remain valid?

A: In general, the application for a Vote-By-Mail ballot is valid through the calendar year of two general elections and must then be renewed. It is recommended to check your VBM status before every election.

Q: Who can vote by mail?

A: Every voter is eligible to vote by mail. That includes:

- Students who attend university outside Florida.

- Homeless persons (they can use the address of a shelter; no churches)

- Persons who are currently in jail but have not yet been convicted of a felony.

Q: How do I know that my vote is counted?

A: As soon as the Dept. of Elections receives voters’ ballots, counting and signature verification begins. Votes are tabulated as ballots arrive. All VBM ballots will be counted, even after polling stations close.

IMPORTANT: If the number of uncounted ballots could affect the outcome of a race, the election will NOT be called on Election Night.

Q: How do I really know that my vote was counted?

A: All votes -- in person or VBM votes -- will be entered into the Election Department’s system and database. You can track your ballot at miamidade.gov.

- That you voted and how you voted, is public record. The record will show if you have voted in person, voted early or voted by mail. It does not show what candidates you have voted for. You can make a public record request to see the history of your voting record.

SUGGESTION:To help the Election Department to contact you in case of a signature discrepancy, list a phone number or email address on the outside of the VBM envelope. You do not have to list your name.

Q: What can I do if I received my Vote-By-Mail ballot, but lost or misplaced it?

A: You can make a VBM ballot replacement request by submitting the Replacement Mail Ballot Oath via THIS FORM. The Election Department must receive it not later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. You can submit it by mail or in person. If you want your replacement VBM ballot mailed to you, that request has to be made by 5 p.m. 10 days prior to any election.

Q: I forgot to apply for a Vote-By-Mail ballot. Can I use my sister's Vote-By-Mail ballot? She does not live at my address anymore.

A: No. The Election Department checks that only ballots from voters with a VBM ballot request on record are counted. If you have not requested to vote by mail, but use someone else's ballot, it will be considered invalid and NOT BE COUNTED. Tampering with another voter’s mail ballot is punishable by law.

Q: I am still concerned about the safety of voting by mail. How do I know my vote is safe?

A: The number of “uncounted ballots” is public record and very low. Around 50% of all uncounted ballots in 2016 and 201, were invalid because voters did not sign the ballot envelopes and did not respond in time to the “ballot cure” request. The remaining uncounted ballots included voters who have moved out of the county, died, used someone else’s ballot or filled out the ballot incorrectly.

In the 2016 presidential election the percentage of uncounted ballots was 1.56 % -- or 4,859 of the 310,317 submitted VBM ballots). Every vote should be counted and the Election Department is making great efforts for that to happen. Voters can contribute to that success by carefully following the guidelines on the ballot instructions.