Elections 2022: How do I vote by mail in Florida? Deadlines, what to do and what's changed

If you plan to vote by mail (VBM, or what used to be called absentee ballots) this year, make sure you know what to do and what not to do. Some things have changed with the latest election law passed last year.

Here's what you need to know to make sure your vote is counted.

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How do I get a ballot to vote by mail in Florida?

Contact your local Supervisor of Elections and request it. You can do that in person, by mail, email, fax or by phone.

You must request your own, or have a legal guardian or designated member of your immediate family do it for you. That means your spouse, parent, child, grandparent or sibling, or the parent, child, grandparent or sibling of your spouse.

You'll need to provide your name, address, date of birth and if it's a written request, your signature. As of this year, you'll also need to provide your Florida driver's license number, Florida ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Requests from your family member or legal guardian must include your signature and their relationship to you.

Ballots will be mailed to your address on file. State law prohibits forwarding of ballots so make sure your address is up to date.

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Absentee ballot requests fill a box at the Supervisor of Elections office in Viera.
Absentee ballot requests fill a box at the Supervisor of Elections office in Viera.

What are the requirements to vote by mail in Florida?

Under state law, all registered voters are allowed to vote by mail. You do not have to provide a reason and there are no eligibility requirements.

What if my ballot arrives damaged?

If your ballot arrives damaged, contact your county's Supervisor of Elections office to get a replacement.

What's the deadline to request a vote by mail ballot in Florida?

The deadline to request a VBM ballot from your county's election office for the next election is 5 p.m. Saturday, August 13.

What mistakes do people make on vote by mail ballots?

Any of the following could result in your vote not being counted:

Using the wrong ink. Use a black ink pen. Don't use light ink, pencils, or markers.

Marking the ballot wrong. Vote for your preferred candidate by completely filling in the oval bubble next to their name. Don't go outside the lines, don't uses Xs, dots or checks. Do not write anywhere else on the ballot, with the exception of adding a write-in candidate where applicable.

Making other marks on the ballot. You don't have to vote in every race on your ballot, but do not cross out any races or names, or make any other marks.

Messing up your ballot. Don't bring food, drink or any other messy items nearby while you're filling out your ballot. Stains or residue may hinder counting machines from registering your votes. Do not cut, tear, wrinkle, tape or otherwise taint your ballot.

Forget to sign your ballot. This is the most common mistake voters make. You must sign (not print) your legal name as it appears on your voting record where indicated, and date the return envelope.

Only one ballot may be returned per envelope.

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What if I make a mistake or vote for the wrong person on my ballot?

Do not assume you can just cross it out and put the right vote in. Different counties may have different procedures. Some may tell you as long as the intent is clear which candidate you wanted to vote for when your ballot is flagged for review it's OK, but some may require you to get a replacement ballot.

The safest way to make sure your ballot goes through without problems is to request a replacement. Contact your local elections office to be sure.

What if the signature on my vote by mail ballot doesn’t match?

If there’s a problem with the signature on your ballot your elections office will contact you. You’ll be asked to sign an affidavit in English or Spanish, which is then reviewed by a canvassing board in a process called "curing." Ballots not cured by the vote-by-mail submission deadline won’t be counted. After being notified of any issues with your ballot, you'll have until 5 p.m. two days after Election Day to have it cured.

What if my signature has changed?

Signatures evolve. If yours has strayed noticeably from the one on file due to age, changes in how you write, or just because you type everything now, go to your county's elections office to update it. If you have a disability that prevents you from signing your name, you may use an identifying mark as your signature instead.

Where can I drop off my vote by mail ballot in Florida?

You can mail it, you can drop it off at the Supervisor of Elections office, or you can drop it at any approved ballot drop box. Drop boxes are now limited to the Elections office or at early voting sites and you only may submit your ballots during hours of operation when they can be monitored.

You may not hand your completed VBM ballot to poll workers.

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Can someone drop off my vote by mail ballot for me?

Yes, with some restrictions.

Under the new law, the number of signed, sealed ballots one person may possess is limited to two besides their own, except for immediate family members. Violation of this is now a felony.

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A voter hands his absentee ballot to a Miami-Dade County elections official in 2016.
A voter hands his absentee ballot to a Miami-Dade County elections official in 2016.

What’s the deadline to mail my ballot in Florida?

VPM ballots must be completed and received by election officials by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Aug. 23. Drop it off well before then, or mail it by Tuesday, Aug. 16 to give it plenty of time.

All VPM ballots must be mailed or physically dropped off, with one exception: overseas voters (civilian and military) have the option to return their ballot by mail or by fax. You can find more information on that at dos.myflorida.com/elections/for-voters/voting/military-and-overseas-citizens-voting/

If I haven’t mailed in my ballot, can I vote at a polling place on Election Day?

Yes. As long as you haven't submitted your VPM ballot, you can go to an early voting location or your polling precinct on Election Day and vote. You can turn over your uncompleted ballot for the poll workers to destroy, if you like, but it's not mandatory.

But do not vote in person AND mail in a ballot, as that violates Florida election law.

How can I make sure my ballot was counted in Florida?

You can — and should — verify that your ballot was received and counted by checking the Vote-by-Mail Ballot Information and Status Lookup in your county. You can find them all at dos.myflorida.com/elections/for-voters/check-your-voter-status-and-polling-place/vote-by-mail-ballot-information-and-status-lookup/

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Can I make requests for vote by mail ballots for future elections?

Not anymore. Previously you could request VBM ballots for the next two general elections, but now you only can request them one general election at a time.

Contributor: Lindsey Leake, Treasure Coast Newspapers

C. A. Bridges is a Digital Producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with multiple newsrooms across Florida. Local journalists work hard to keep you informed about the things you care about, and you can support them by subscribing to your local news organizationRead more articles by Chris here and follow him on Twitter at @cabridges

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Elections 2022 absentee ballots: How to vote by mail in Florida