Guest Opinion: Yes, it’s safe to vote-by-mail in Lee County
As the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, I want to reassure voters that voting by mail is a safe and secure method of voting. Florida has strict laws that provide checks and balances we must adhere to when processing Vote-by-Mail (VBM) ballots.
Voting by mail, or absentee voting as it was called back then, has gained in popularity since Florida expanded it in the aftermath of the 2000 George W. Bush – Al Gore presidential election and opened it to anyone who wished to use it without having to cite a reason.
Despite the president’s insistence that voting by mail is an invitation for fraud, it is extremely rare because of the rigorous laws and procedures in place to safeguard the integrity of elections in Florida.
Below are checks and balances required by law that help ensure the security of voting by mail and protect your vote:
– To request a VBM you must be a registered voter.
– We do not send every registered voter a Vote-by-Mail (VBM) package; the voter must request one.
– The voter must sign an oath on the back of the envelope attesting they are a registered voter.
– The signatures are compared with the voter’s signature on file.
– If the signature does not match or is missing the voter will be notified immediately. The voter has until two days after the election to correct any deficiency.
– Voters who do not want to mail their ballot can return them to one of our drop-off locations, which are listed on the website, lee.vote.
– The mail-in ballots are the first to be tabulated. The tabulation equipment can only tabulate ballots that are printed on the proper type and size of paper and include specific technical markings.
– Voters can track their ballots online to see when it was mailed, received, and counted.
We expect the number of Lee County voters voting by mail will significantly increase due to COVID-19. In the last two elections, more than 50 of votes cast by Lee County voters were by mail. Due to COVID-19, we are prepared for the percentage to increase to 65 percent. Voting by mail is one way that will protect voters should they choose to take advantage of it.
Voters who choose to vote in-person will be able to do so during Early Voting and on Election Day. Voters may vote at any of the 10 Early Voting sites beginning Saturday, Aug. 8 through Saturday, Aug. 15, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., daily. In-person voting on Election Day must be done at the voter’s precinct only. Polls are open at 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
If you choose to vote in person, please bring patience with you. Due to COVID-19, we have consolidated precincts because we have fewer poll workers and plan to follow CDC guidelines at Early Voting sites and at the polls on Election Day to ensure a safe environment. These measures increase the probability of longer wait times.
I encourage you to request a VBM ballot by calling 239-533-8683or visit our website at lee.vote. Your VBM is an insurance policy that guarantees you will not lose your right to vote. If you have a VBM and you decide to vote in person, you still can.
Stay home, stay safe, vote by mail.
Tommy Doyle is the supervisor of elections for Lee County