Election Protection Coalition Offers Legal Help to Florida Voters Who Received Late Absentee Ballots

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
November 2, 2004 12:00 am

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MIAMI – Following numerous reports over the past weeks that thousands of Florida voters requesting absentee ballots have not received them, representatives of the Election Protection Coalition announced today that they will represent voters who received an absentee ballot from county elections supervisors so late that it may not be received by election officials until after today’s election.

“Considering the large number of voters who chose to cast absentee ballots, and the failure of elections officials to get those ballots to voters in time, we have to act now to ensure that every vote is counted,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which is a member of the coalition.

Coalition representatives advised voters to mail in their absentee ballots and confirm that they are postmarked with today’s date. The coalition also encouraged concerned voters to contact its hotline at 1-888-262-4854.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes recently came under fire for losing track of nearly 58,000 ballots that were allegedly given to the Postal Service earlier this month, but never received by voters. According to the U.S. Postal Service, after mail carriers had left on Saturday, both Broward County and Palm Beach County dropped off more than 8,000 absentee ballots for mailing — virtually ensuring that voters requesting them would be unable to return the ballots by November 2.

Although election officials rushed absentee ballots to nearly 20,000 voters who never received them, the Election Protection Coalition still has concerns regarding whether every voter who requested an absentee ballot actually received it in time to vote and return the ballot to their local elections office.

State election rules require that ballots reach the Office of the Supervisor of Elections by mail or hand delivery not later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day or they will not be counted. The Election Protection Coalition is prepared to file a lawsuit to require that ballots cast by Election Day, but received after Election Day, be counted. That is the procedure currently available to overseas voters and should, according to the coalition, also be available to people who received a late absentee ballot.

Coalition representatives also urged voters who have still not received absentee ballots to download a sample ballot from the county supervisor of elections website or a federal ballot from www.fvap.gov. While such ballots would not be counted absent a court order, the voter would be on record with their vote by November 2.

In addition to the ACLU, the Election Protection Coalition includes ACORN, Advancement Project, Brennan Center, Common Cause, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Demos, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, League of United Latin American Citizens, League of Women Voters, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc and People for the American Way Foundation. For a complete list of coalition partners, visit: http://www.electionprotection2004.org/coalition.htm

For more information on the ACLU’s voter protection efforts, go to /vote.

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