Avoid these common mistakes made when filling in, returning mail-in ballots

Deadline for elections offices to send Florida mail-in ballots is Thursday

Elections offices here in Florida will send out mail-in ballots on Thursday. A record number, over 143,000, have been requested so far from the Duval county supervisor of election's office. Jennifer Waugh explains the most common mistakes voters make when filling them out--- errors that could prevent your vote from counting.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Elections offices in Florida must send voters the mail-in ballot they requested by Thursday. More than 143,000 have been requested in Duval County, which is a record. Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan recommends voters fill out their mail-in ballot as soon as possible and mail it back, in case there is a problem.

He said voters made several mistakes during the primary with their mail-in ballots by not following the directions.

Here are the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them:

Using pencil or the wrong color pen

The tabulator used to count ballots can only read a black pen.

“Folks that hand it in and write their mail-in ballots in pencil, our tabulator can’t read it,” Hogan said in an interview on The Morning Show on Wednesday. “We have to duplicate that ballot. Same with a blue pen. So, use a black pen.”

Marking the ballot incorrectly

Hogan said the oval located next to the candidate’s name or under the amendment, must be colored in completely. He said any other mark will not be counted.

“Most people will just put a checkmark and an 'X' mark,” he said. "The ballot may not be tabulated because the tabulator won’t read that.”

Forgetting to sign the ballot

Voters frequently forget this last step of the process. They put the ballot in the envelope and forget to sign it.

“The most important thing is your signature,” Hogan said.

You can’t miss it. It’s on the outside of the envelope containing your mail-in ballot.

“It’s the signature line with the ‘X.’ It’s a big ‘X,’" Hogan said.

Scribbling a signature

If your signature on the mail-in ballot is not legible, it will be rejected for a mismatched signature.

“There is a cure. We will send that information to the voter that there was a signature problem. They will have the opportunity to correct it, but let’s do it on the front end,” Hogan said.

Depending upon when you return your mail-in ballot, there may not be time to fix the problem since all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Signing the wrong ballot

Another problem is several people in the same household may sign the wrong ballot.

Make sure you sign correctly.

“I have received as many as five different family members and none of them signed the right ballot. So that is a mismatched signature,” said Hogan, which means the ballot will be rejected until the problem can be fixed.

Having the wrong address on file

It is important to remember mail-in ballots cannot be forwarded by the post office.

If the elections' office does not have your updated address, you will not receive your mail-in ballot.

You can check the address on file by going to duvalelections.com, click on “Voter Status," and then type in your first name, last name and date of birth.

The Duval county supervisor of elections office will begin sending out mail- in ballots requested by local voters. Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan joins us this morning to explain the most common mistakes that voters make.

How to properly seal the mail-in ballot envelope

The mail-in ballot signature is on the outside of the envelope you will receive in the mail. There is a flap of paper that folds over and covers the signature, so it cannot be duplicated.

There are two strips of sticky tape that hold this flap in place.

Hogan said for some reason, voters have ripped off the flap, leaving the sticky portion of the envelope exposed.

This often becomes stuck in the mail sorting machines used by the post office when you mail your ballot back to the elections office, meaning your ballot may not arrive.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 24, 10 days before the election. Hogan suggests not waiting until then to make your request.

The post office has already said voters should allow for at least a week for your postal carrier and the post office to deliver your mail-in ballot to the elections office after you’ve filled it out.

In the state of Florida, mail-in ballots must be requested. They will not be automatically sent to voters like in some other states.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.