110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
She’s hoping voters will consider absentee voting
posted Sep 20, 2012 - 8:20:20am
Considering the changes in election law, changes in precinct boundaries, and changes in the boundaries for congressional, state and local districts, voting problems in the Aug. 14 primary election could have been much worse.
Of a total 78,223 voters, only 107 had to vote by provisional ballot in the primary. And, when the Volusia County Canvassing Board reviewed those 107 special cases, 75 of those votes were accepted and counted.
New this year was a requirement that voters who showed up at the polls needing to do out-of-county address changes had to vote by provisional ballot. In the 2010 gubernatorial race, McFall noted, 1,200 address changes were completed at polling places on Election Day.
Other problems that led to provisional ballots included signatures that didn’t match the signatures on file with the Elections Office, voters showing up at the wrong precinct, and voters who showed up at the polls but also were on file as having requested absentee ballots.
McFall is bracing for an even bigger Election Day, and a new set of problems, on Tuesday, Nov. 6. With an eight-page ballot, she’s hoping voters will consider voting by absentee ballot, so they can take their time with decisions that range from the presidential election to statewide referendums and city races.
While the primary turnout in August was 24.51 percent of Volusia County’s 319,206 registered voters, the turnout in the last presidential election in 2008 was 75.21 percent. If 2012’s presidential vote draws a similar percentage, that would mean 245,851 voters in the general election, encountering those new polling places and some different rules.
In the Aug. 14 primary, about 43 percent of voters didn’t visit the precinct polling places. Most of those voted by absentee ballot, and the others cast ballots in early voting.
“If you have an eight-page ballot, it’s better to have it at home and take your time,” McFall said. “Or, at the very least, take that sample ballot to the polls.”
Voters will be sent sample ballots in the mail for the Nov. 6 election, but McFall knows not all of them will reach the voters. She knows there are many more wrong-address problems out there in Volusia County, involving people who didn’t show up for the Aug. 14 primary.
This year, 50 polling places were eliminated, and consequently many voters’ polling places changed. When McFall mailed nearly 320,000 required notices to voters to advise them of their new polling places, some 50,000 of those notices — more than 15 percent — were returned by the post office as undeliverable.
Because of state law, McFall can’t go through those 50,000 returned pieces of mail to uncover voter problems before they are manifest at the polls. To do so would constitute “list management,” and that’s not allowed in the months leading up to an election.
Lake Helen resident Tammy Jaques was one of those caught in the chaos over changed polling places. She showed up at the precinct where she has voted for 12 years, only to be told her new precinct was miles away in Deltona.
Jaques said she — and the other three voting-age adults in her household — never received notice of the change.
“No one in my household (four adult voters) received a new card,” Jaques said. “We have lived in the same place for 12 years. My address is up-to-date. No excuse. All the campaign literature found me.”
McFall and Jaques are both at a loss to explain why the Elections Office mail never reached the Jaques household.
Jaques, a lawyer, ran into another kind of problem at the polls Aug. 14. The poll worker told her she couldn’t cast a ballot unless she had an identification card with a magnetic stripe.
That’s not true. While a voter is required to have a photo ID, he or she doesn’t have to have ID with a magnetic stripe.
Another voter told The Beacon of having difficulty finding her new and unfamiliar polling place, as there were no signs outside. When she finally got inside, poll workers told her they brought in the signs because it started raining.
These are examples of the poll-worker-training issues McFall and her staff face every election year.
Volusia County poll workers will receive a minimum three hours of additional training before the Nov. 6 election, as required by state law. While these and other issues will be addressed, McFall knows better than to hope that every poll worker will do everything right in every case.
Because of the reduction in the number of polling places, there are 1,000 poll workers now, instead of the 1,800 needed for elections in recent years.
Many of them are retirees, who may have limited computer experience.
They are expected to stay sharp for more than 12 hours on Election Day.
“We tried to pick the best and the brightest,” McFall said.
On hand to help them Nov. 6 will be 35 or 40 EDTs, or “Election Day technicians.”
These are county-government employees, relieved of their regular duties for the day, who are trained to travel among several polling places, to help poll workers with technical issues and other problems.
• If you plan to vote by absentee ballot, first be sure you are registered to vote in Volusia County. The registration deadline for the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 9.
• If you need an absentee ballot mailed to you, the Elections Office must receive your request before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31.
• You may request an absentee ballot in person at the Elections Office until voting closes on Nov. 6. If you cannot get to your precinct voting location on Election Day, you may vote by absentee ballot at the Elections Office.
• You may request an absentee ballot:
— by mail (125 W. New York Ave., DeLand, FL 32720),
— in person (125 W. New York Ave., DeLand),
— by fax (386-626-6635),
— by telephone (386-736-5930),
— by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or
— online (at www.volusia.org/elections).
• An absentee-ballot request must contain the voter’s name, permanent Volusia County residence address, date of birth, address where the ballot is to be mailed, and the voter’s signature, if the request is made in writing.
• You can request an absentee ballot for a specific election, or for all elections for the next two years.
• Only a member of the voter’s immediate family or the voter’s legal guardian may request an absentee ballot for that voter. Written permission from the voter is required.
• If you order an absentee ballot and decide later to vote at your precinct location, bring your absentee ballot with you. It will be canceled.
Absentee ballots may not be dropped off at precinct voting locations. If you don’t have the ballot and still want to vote at the precinct, you will be asked to vote a provisional ballot.
Providing there are no other problems with your provisional ballot, it will be counted only if you did not also vote your absentee ballot.
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