Planning to vote by mail? Avoid making these common mistakes

As more voters choose to cast their ballots by mail for the Nov. 3 election due to the coronavirus pandemic, worries about filling it out properly to ensure that it is counted are on the rise.

And those worries may be at least somewhat warranted. According to a Washington Post analysis, more than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries in 23 states this year. Here in South Florida, more than 10,000 vote by mail ballots were rejected during the Aug. 18 primary.

But you can avoid the most common mistakes that voters make while filling out a mail ballot. Here are some tips for filling out a mail ballot so you can prevent it from being rejected on Nov. 3.

Sign the outside of the return envelope

The most common mistake that voters tend to make while filling out their mail ballot is forgetting to sign the return envelope that they are sending back to the Elections Department, according to Suzy Trutie, Miami-Dade County’s Deputy Supervisor of Elections.

After filling out your mail ballot, place the marked ballot in the secrecy sleeve provided by the Elections Department. Then, insert the secrecy sleeve into the mailing envelope provided, which should be addressed to the Elections Department, and fill out the Voter’s Certificate on the back of the mailing envelope.

You must sign your name inside the red signature box — the red box says “Voters must sign below” — on the back of the return envelope for your ballot to be counted.

If you forget to sign inside the red box, the Elections Department will send you a letter letting you know that you forgot to fill out the outside of the envelope. You will need to fill out a Cure Affidavit and return it to the Elections Department for your ballot to be counted.

Also, your signature on the back of the return envelope must match the signature the Elections Department has on file for you in order for your vote to be counted.

If you wish to update the signature you have on file for this election and you live in Miami-Dade, you may send your updated signature using a voter registration application to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections before the office receives your vote-by-mail ballot.

If multiple people are voting by mail in your household, be sure to put your ballot in your assigned return envelope

Every voter has a unique voter identification number that is associated with their political party and their home address, according to Trutie.

“It’s very important to make sure that your ballot goes into your envelope,” Trutie said. “Do not mix those ballots and envelopes up.”

Use a black or blue pen to fill out your mail ballot

The Elections Department requires that you use a black or blue pen while filling out your ballot or any other information on the envelope.

Also, avoid making any stray marks or tears on your ballot or the return envelope.

Finally, return your mail ballot to the elections department as early as possible

The Miami-Dade County Elections Department will begin sending mail ballots to voters who are overseas on Sept. 19 and to domestic voters on Oct. 1, according to Trutie.

Voters who have requested mail ballots in Broward County can expect to start receiving their ballots in late September or early October, according to the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office.

In Miami-Dade, voters can return their mail ballot to the Elections Department via mail using the U.S. Postal Service, by directly bringing it to the Miami-Dade Elections Department or by dropping it off at one of the 33 early voting locations across the county.

In Broward County, voters can mail their ballot to the Elections Department or drop it off at one of the 24 secure drop-off locations around the county.

Voters in Monroe County can mail completed ballots back to the Elections Department or they can bring it in and give it directly to the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections office.

Regardless of the method you choose, Trutie urges voters to return their ballot as soon as they can. State law requires that ballots are in the hands of the Elections Department no later than 7:00 p.m. on the day of the election. “Not postmarked, but in our possession 7 p.m. on Election Day,” Trutie emphasized.

“The closer you get to that date, the bigger chance you’re taking that it may not reach us in time,” Trutie said.

One last thing, make sure you’re registered to vote by Oct. 5. That’s also the last date for you to change your party affiliation.

And if you want to vote by mail, you must request a ballot by 5 p.m. Oct. 24.

If you have additional questions, you can call the Elections Department in your county directly. You can reach the Miami-Dade County Elections Department at 305-499-8683. The number for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office is 954-357-7050. And the office number for the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections at 305-292-3416.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the ballot needs to be signed. Voters just need to sign the envelope.

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