During these challenging times of COVID-19 and social distancing, the League of Women Voters of Collier County (LWVCC) wants Collier County residents to vote safely and the League is urging all voters to request a Vote-By-Mail (VBM) ballot.
Voting by Mail in Florida
A Video: How to Complete my Ballot.
What is Voting by Mail in Florida?
Voting by mail is a service offered by the Supervisors of Elections for registered voters who do not wish to vote in person for any reason. Vote-By-Mail refers to voting using a ballot that has been received in the mail or picked up, by or for a voter, instead of going to the polls to vote during the early voting period, or on Election Day. Unless otherwise specified, a request to receive a Vote-By-Mail ballot covers all elections through the end of the calendar year, including the regularly scheduled general election.
Can I Vote-By-Mail just because I feel like it? Or do I need a good reason?
If you are a registered voter in the State of Florida, you are entitled to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot. You do not need a reason.
Why Should I vote by Mail?
Covid-19 has affected us in many ways, and it is simply safer for you and for our poll workers for you to vote by mail. Also, for those of us who work or have childcare responsibilities, voting by mail is simply easier. Voting in advance and at home may also help voters to make better choices and be better informed especially if we have constitutional issues on the ballot.
What do I have to do to be “Vote-By-Mail” ready?
To be ready to Vote using your Vote-By-Mail Ballot, you must first:
- Be registered to vote in the State of Florida and request your ballot early!
- Make sure all your information is correct – update all voter registration information, including:
- Your signature
- Your name (if changed since registration)
- Your address
- Your party affiliation (No Party Affiliation is an option)
- Make sure (a) you have adequate postage or (b)know where you will drop off your ballot at one of the early voting sites before early voting ends or (c) drop off your ballot by 7pm on Election Day at the Supervisor of Elections Office
- Do not forget to sign your envelope!
Addressing Misconceptions about Vote by Mail Fraud
Is vote by mail fraud a big problem?
No, in fact, it is very rare. The Supervisor of Elections has numerous safeguards to prevent fraud, including: (a) Requiring the voter requesting a ballot to provide identifying information; (b) Requiring the voter to sign the envelope; (c) Checking this signature against the official signature on file for the voter and if there is a question providing a second review; (d) Providing secure, monitored drop boxes for voters to drop off their ballots; (e) Assigning each ballot a unique bar code which allows election officials to keep track of ballot processing and help voters know whether their ballot has been received. Bar codes also allow states to identify and eliminate duplicate ballots if a voter casts more than one, whether by mistake or with corrupt intent; (f) Creating a system where each voter can go online and track their ballots to ensure that it was received and counted.
I have heard there is more fraud when Vote-by-Mail ballots are used. Is that true?
No, there is very little evidence of an increase in fraud from voting by mail. This is in large part due to the safeguards put in place. Voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and the per capita rate of fraud is no higher, and often lower in the states that are 100 percent Vote-By-Mail, or are using voting by mail to a great extent. For example, Colorado had one absentee prosecution in 2012 and one in 2017, one before and one after they went 100 percent Vote-By-Mail. In the state of Washington, the last absentee fraud case was from 2010, before they went to 100 percent Vote-By-Mail.
I have heard if someone has died, someone else could still receive their Vote-By-Mail ballot. Could they use that ballot?
Ballots are only sent to active registered voters who have requested them. States and local governments with effective Vote-By-Mail systems have automated processes that match death records to the voter registration lists to prevent ballots from being sent to deceased voters. Signature verification provides another level of security. The Supervisor of Elections works with multiple agencies to maintain clean voter rolls.
What prevents someone from forging a signature to vote using another person’s ballot?
Stealing, attempting to steal, or even hiding another person’s mail is a Federal felony offense. Voter fraud, depending on the situation, can be both a state and federal crime.
To prevent fraud and ensure that only eligible voters cast their votes, voter validation is a key part of the process. All election personnel are trained in signature matching, so it is more difficult for a forged signature to be successful. This means that every returned ballot envelope must be signed by the voter, and each signature is validated using official signatures already on file, e.g. voter registration documents, driver’s license. If the signature does not match, and a secondary review cannot determine a match, the voter is contacted immediately to resolve the discrepancy.
How do I get a Vote by Mail Ballot?
How do I get a Vote by Mail Ballot?
A request for a Vote-By-Mail ballot may be made in one of the following ways:
- Complete an online application from the County Supervisor of Elections’ website at http://www.colliervotes.com/
- Complete the Vote-By-Mail registration form sent by the Supervisor of Elections to you in the mail recently or print off the application from their website and send it by email (MailBallot@CollierCountyFL.gov), fax (239-252-2630) or regular mail (3750 Enterprise Avenue, Naples, FL 34104) to the Supervisor of Elections
- In person at the Supervisor of Elections office
- By telephone call to the Supervisor of Elections (239) 252-8683
If I am a registered voter in Collier County, but spend some of the year outside Florida, can my Vote- By-Mail ballot be sent to an address other than my legal residence in Florida?
- If you want your ballot to be sent to an address other than your permanent Florida residence, you must file a written, signed request with the SOE office. This request cannot be made using the online system. NOTE!! YOUR BALLOT WILL NOT AUTOMATICALLY BE FORWARDED BY THE U.S. POST OFFICE.
- Written, signed requests may be made by mail, Fax (239-252-2630) or emailed by sending a pdf of the signed official Vote-by-Mail ballot request form to MailBallot@CollierCountyFl.gov.
If I am on vacation, or have moved, will my Vote-By-Mail ballot be automatically forwarded to me?
No. Ballots are not automatically “forwardable” by the Post Office. You must submit a request and specify the exact address where you want your ballot to be sent. You cannot expect to receive it simply by using the Post Office’s forwarding function.
When is the last day I can request a Vote-By-Mail ballot? The last day to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot for the primary election (August 18th) is August 8, at 5 p.m. The last day to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot for the general election (November 3rd ) is October 24, 2020 at 5 p.m.
Can someone else pick up my ballot from the Supervisor of Elections for me?
YES, BUT THERE ARE STRICT PROCEDURES THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED. First, the person must be an immediate family member, Second, prior to any ballot being picked up, the person picking it up for you must contact the Supervisor of Elections office and bring a signed affidavit from you giving them authority to pick up your ballot. The affidavit may be downloaded from the Collier County SOE website under the Forms Library: Download Election Day Vote by Mail Affidavit
How do I get a Vote-By-Mail ballot if I am homeless?
A Vote-By-Mail ballot can be sent to any address requested by a registered Collier County voter. Further inquiries should be directed to the Supervisor of Elections office at (239) 252-8683.
What you need to know about your signature and address when you vote by mail?
CHECK YOUR SIGNATURE
How do I make sure I know what signature is on file for me?
If you are unsure, you should go ahead and submit a signature update with your preferred signature. If you don’t have time to do that, sign the same way you signed your Driver’s License or Florida Identification card.
How do I update or change my signature?
You will use the same form you use to register to vote, but at the top please check “Record Update Change” and then fill in the required information and sign it and mail it to the SOE. Do this as soon as possible, and take a picture of it with your phone so you will remember how you signed it!
What if I have legally changed my name (for example, married or divorced) since the last election? Do I need to use my new name? Can I just use the signature I used the last time I voted?
Yes, you need to use your new legal name. You will need to update your signature using the signature update portion of the Voter Registration Application – see Section 10 of the Application which asks for “Former Name” Also, if you change your mind and decide to vote in person you need to make sure your official ID that you bring with you to vote matches your signature and changed legal name, so don’t forget to update your driver’s license or Florida ID.
What if a voter’s signature changes, for example, because of an injury or medical condition, or just personal preference?
If your signature has changed over time, you must send a signature update to the Supervisor of Elections. You will use the same form you use to register to vote, but at the top please check “Record Update Change” and then fill in the required information and sign it and mail it to the SOE. Do this as soon as possible. You can also go into the Supervisor of Elections office and fill out the form in person.
What is the deadline for updating my signature?
There is no official deadline to make this update; however, a voter should update their signature before they cast their ballot.
If there is a problem with my signature will I be contacted?
Yes. If a voter’s signature on the returned ballot envelope differs from the signature of record at the Supervisor of Elections office, elections staff will immediately reach out to the voter to “cure” their signature. By putting your phone number and email on the ballot envelope it will be much easier for the Supervisor to contact you regarding any issue with your ballot.
How do I change my address, and when does it have to be done before I vote?
You can use the Voter Registration Application to also change your address. Check “records update” at the top and then fill in your new address, sign and return. You can also do this online at https://www.colliervotes.com/Voter-Registration/Update-My-Information Voters who have moved within the county since the last election should report their new residence address to the Supervisor of Elections office before going to vote. Voters who do not notify the Supervisor of Elections office of an address change may find their polling location and election districts have changed and may be directed to a different precinct on Election Day before being permitted to vote.
How do I complete and return my ballot?
Voters must personally complete their own ballots (unless assistance is required due to blindness, disability, or inability to read or write).
- Completely fill in the ovals corresponding to the candidates and/or referendums of choice with a pen in black or blue ink. Do not use pencil.
- Place your completed ballot in the enclosed secrecy sleeve (also known as the secrecy “envelope”).
- Place both the ballot and the secrecy sleeve in the return envelope provided. (Please note failure to enclose the secrecy sleeve DOES NOT invalidate the ballot.)
- For the Vote-By-Mail ballot to be counted, the voter must sign or apply their legal mark in the box below the voter certificate on the return envelope.
- The signature must reasonably match the voter’s signature on file with the Supervisor of Elections (usually your driver’s license, or your voter registration card).
- A signature as Power of Attorney (POA) will not be accepted. If you use a POA, your ballot will not be counted.
Do I have to vote on every candidate or question for my Vote-By-Mail ballot to be counted?
No, it is just like any ballot on Election Day. You do not need to vote on every candidate or question for your ballot to be counted.
How many envelopes are included with my Vote- By- Mail ballot? How do I use them?
Three (3). Your Mail-By-Ballot packet will arrive in an outer envelope. The outer envelope will also contain a secrecy sleeve to cover the ballot, and a return envelope.
If I make a mistake, damage or lose my Vote-By-Mail ballot, can I get a new one? If so, how? Who do I call?
A Vote-By-Mail ballot can be replaced up to three times as long as the ballot has not been returned as voted. Replacement ballots are issued through the Supervisor of Elections office (239) 252-8683.
Important signature & address info when you vote by mail
Do I have to provide my email address and phone number on the outside of the mailing envelope?
No. The only thing that is ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED on the outside of the mailing envelope is your signature. Florida voters who choose to vote by mail are requested to put their email addresses, and home and cell phone numbers, along with their signatures, on the outside of the ballot envelopes they mail back to the Supervisor of Elections office but this is not required for your ballot to be valid.
How can I protect my personal information on the outside of the envelope?
There are two ways to return your ballot if you are concerned about the information on the outside of the envelope.
- First, be sure to put the completed ballot in the original return envelope provided by the SOE, with your signature and contact information on it. Then put the original envelope into an outer envelope and mail that to the Supervisor of Elections. Note, this will probably require additional postage.
- Another way that you can protect your information is to take your completed ballot in the return envelope provided by the SOE (with your signature and other information on it) to one of the secure drop-off box locations, and it will be securely and safely picked up by a Supervisor of Elections employee without using the U.S. Postal Service.
Will my Vote-by-Mail be counted if I forget to put my ballot in the security sleeve?
Yes, your vote will be counted if the ballot is not in the secrecy sleeve, but you MUST SIGN the outer envelope!
Do I Have to Pay postage?
Yes, if you return your ballot by mail.
What if I request a Vote- By- Mail ballot and then decide to vote at the polls? Can I still vote in person?
Yes. If you have received a VBM ballot and decide to go to the polls to vote instead of voting by mail, you should bring the Vote-By-Mail ballot (marked or not) with you, so it can be cancelled at the polls. If you come to the polls without the Vote-By-Mail ballot you can vote using a regular ballot if the Supervisor of Elections can confirm it has not already received your Vote-By-Mail ballot.
Where can I drop my ballot off personally?
Drop boxes are located at every early voting location. See the list of drop box sites below:
- Collier County Government Complex– 3311 Tamiami Trail East, Naples
- Everglades City Hall– 102 Copeland Avenue N, Everglades City
- Golden Gate Community Center– 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples
- Immokalee Community Park– 321 N 1st St, Immokalee
- Library Headquarters– 2385 Orange Blossom Drive, Naples
- Marco Island Library– 210 S Heathwood Drive, Marco Island
- Norris Center– 755 8th Ave S, Naples
- North Collier Regional Park– 15000 Livingston Road, Naples
- Supervisor of Elections Office– 3750 Enterprise Ave, Naples
Deadlines for returning ballots & checking on received ballots
What are the deadlines for returning my ballot? Can I check that it has been received?
We advise voters to return their ballots as soon as possible! If your ballot is mailed, it must be received by the Supervisor of Elections by 7 p.m. on Election Day. A voter can drop off their Vote-By-Mail ballot at the Supervisor of Elections Office at 3750 Enterprise Ave, Naples, FL 34104 up to 7 p.m. on Election Day or at their Satellite office at 2335 Orange Blossom Dr., Naples ,FL 34109 until 6 p.m.
If my ballot is postmarked before the election but received by the Supervisor of Elections after the election, will it be counted?
No, your ballot must be received by the Supervisor of Elections office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, or it will NOT be counted. The only exception is for overseas military ballots.
How do I know if my Vote-By- Mail ballot has been delivered on time to the Supervisor of Elections?
You can track your ballot on the Supervisor of Elections website (see www.colliervotes.com) In the column on the left side of the page, click on “Vote-by-mail”. The drop-down menu will give you the option to click on “Vote-by-Mail’ Status”. Fill in your name and date of birth, and you will be able to see if your ballot has been received and counted.
What do I do if my ballot does not show as received before Election Day?
You should call the Supervisor of Elections and report this. They will advise you whether you can get a new vote by mail ballot in time. Otherwise, you should be prepared to vote in person.