Local election officials in Florida call for scrapping new ID rules for mail voting
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Local election officials in Florida want state lawmakers to scrap new vote-by-mail rules that they say present some serious logistical and security issues. The new ID requirements are also raising concerns that a large number of voters could be disenfranchised. NPR's Ashley Lopez reports.
ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: These new rules require Florida voters provide either their driver's license number or a partial Social Security number on their mail ballot. Mark Earley is Leon County's supervisor of elections. He says across the state, local officials are worried about how they're going to make this work.
MARK EARLEY: Supervisors of elections are very concerned about every aspect of this - the timeliness, the cost and the ability just to get our vote-by-mail ballots tabulated in time.
LOPEZ: These new requirements are part of a sprawling elections bill signed into law last year by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. Provisions in the law are similar to vote-by-mail ID rules that went into effect in Texas last year. In that state, there was an unprecedented number of mail ballots rejected in the first election those new rules were in place. And those issues caught the attention of Brian Corley, the Republican election supervisor in Pasco County, Fla.
BRIAN CORLEY: You know, we kind of looked at what happened in Texas, as election administrators, with concern.
LOPEZ: Corley says he's worried about a surge in ballots in Florida that will be flagged for rejection, much like what happened last March in Texas.
CORLEY: Problem is, most voters, when they register to vote, register using their driver's license number. And so if they're having a choice on the envelope to write the DL number or last four of the social, they're nine times out of 10 going to revert to the last four the social, which we don't have in our records. So what are we to verify against?
LOPEZ: And unlike in Texas, a lot of voters in Florida vote by mail. And there's no specific way for voters to fix or cure their ballots if the ID number they provide is illegible or doesn't match what's on file. Mark Earley in Leon County says he's concerned even if the state does outline a cure process, it's going to be tough to get all the ballots cured within two days after Election Day, which is required by Florida law.
EARLEY: You talk about delaying the results or potentially disenfranchising voters. If we can't get that cure done in that kind of a volume at the - you know, in the last few days of the election, it's going to be very, very difficult to get all these vote-by-mail ballots counted.
LOPEZ: Earley says local election officials are also worried about identity theft and have to figure out a way to redesign ballots to shield ID numbers. He says this will require investments in new equipment, voter materials and also the added labor costs of creating an extra step in counting ballots. Zack Smith is with The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that supports these ID rules. Smith says regardless of cost, election security is a worthy investment for states.
ZACK SMITH: Placing paramount priority on, you know, safe, secure elections is something that, yes, we think a state should prioritize.
LOPEZ: But Democratic State Senator Tracie Davis, who spent over a decade working at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office, says these ID numbers are wholly unnecessary for local officials to identify a voter sending back a mail ballot. She also takes issue with plans to roll out these new rules in 2024.
TRACIE DAVIS: It's just mind-boggling that we would be trying to implement something like this throughout the state in the midst of a presidential year.
LOPEZ: Local election officials want state lawmakers to throw out these mail ballot ID plans; if not, at least postpone them until after the presidential election. State election officials are due to weigh in on these new rules later this week.
Ashley Lopez, NPR News.
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