Tampa Bay elections officials rejected rejected nearly 3000 absentee ballots
More people voted by mail in Pinellas County in the 2012 election than in any other county in Florida, but for some, it ended badly: Their votes didn't count.
Among the record 249,000 Pinellas voters who voted absentee, 737 did not follow basic instructions, and the county's canvassing board disqualified their ballots.
Statewide, nearly 2.4 million people voted absentee this year — a record — and the overwhelming majority did count.
Bad ballots make up a tiny fraction of each county's total of absentees, but they reveal a contradiction: Voting absentee may be easy and convenient, but it's fraught with peril.
"Absentee ballots are processed and verified using different standards than regular ballots," said University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith, "and as such are routinely rejected at a higher rate."
All over Florida, voters made the effort to fill out the longest ballot in memory, then neglected to sign the ballot envelope, which is grounds for rejection. Others moved to another county after being sent a ballot — not allowed. Some first-time voters who registered by mail did not include a copy of a photo ID as the law requires.
For nearly half of all Pinellas voters whose ballots were rejected, the problem was the same: The signature on the ballot paperwork did not match the signature on file....