Planning to vote by mail in Tampa Bay? Here’s what you should know.

Voters shouldn’t see drastic changes to the election process compared to prior years.
Thahji Nixson closes the door on a truck with mail-in-ballots at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections warehouse as workers transport them in Tampa on Thursday, October 6, 2022.
Thahji Nixson closes the door on a truck with mail-in-ballots at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections warehouse as workers transport them in Tampa on Thursday, October 6, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Oct. 27, 2022|Updated Oct. 27, 2022

Early voting has begun and vote-by-mail ballots have been sent out as the Nov. 8 election quickly approaches.

Elections offices across Tampa Bay already are starting to receive returned mail ballots.

Hillsborough County’s elections office said Tuesday it sent out more than 240,000 mail ballots and has gotten just over 100,000 back. Pasco County sent out almost 124,000 ballots and has received about 48,000 ballots from voters as of Tuesday, according to that elections office. Pinellas County’s elections office has sent out around 348,000 ballots, it said. So far, more than 138,000 Pinellas mail ballots have been returned, according to data on the elections office’s website.

A 2021 Florida elections law, Senate Bill 90, required county elections offices to make changes to how mail ballots are handled, but voters shouldn’t notice most of the changes.

One thing voters in Pinellas County will notice is a spot on the envelope asking them to fill out additional information so they can continue receiving mail ballots for the next election cycle, county elections office communication manager Ashley McKnight-Taylor said.

That’s because state law requires voters to request mail ballots every general election cycle instead of the requests being good for two election cycles. And voters requesting mail ballots must now provide their driver’s license number, a state-issued ID or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Hillsborough County voters won’t have the same option on their envelopes, but mailers will be sent out after the election to people with vote-by-mail ballot requests on file for 2022 letting them know they’ll need to make a new request for the next general election cycle, county elections office spokesperson Gerri Kramer said.

Voters in Pasco County will see a box on their mail ballot envelope asking if they’d like to continue to vote by mail. The elections office will be ignoring that box because of the additional information needed to request a ballot by mail, county elections office chief administrative officer Tiffanie Alligood said. Pasco voters will need to submit a mail ballot request for the next general election cycle.

Here’s how to request and return vote-by-mail ballots in the upcoming election.

How do I request a mail ballot?

Voters can call or visit their county elections office, fill out a written request form or fill out an online form if they plan to vote by mail. Online request forms can be found on every elections office website.

You’ll need to provide your name, address, date of birth and either your Florida driver’s license number, state ID card number or the last four digits of your Social Security number. You’ll need to provide your signature if you make the request in writing and to an address that is not on file with the state.

When is the deadline to request a ballot?

Voters need to make their request by no later than 5 p.m. on Oct. 29 in order to receive a ballot by mail. After the deadline, you’re able to pick up a mail ballot at your county elections office until the day before Election Day.

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How do I submit my ballot?

You can mail in your ballot or drop it off at your county elections office. Ballots can be submitted at secure ballot intake locations or at your county elections office.

Vote-by-mail ballots will not be accepted at polling locations on Election Day. However, you can surrender your mail ballot and vote in person or return it to the county elections office that day.

Related: Here’s what to do if you need a new mail ballot in Florida

When is the deadline for returning my completed mail ballot?

All ballots must be returned, not postmarked, by 7 p.m. on Election Day. If you plan on mailing your ballot in, most county election supervisors recommend doing so at least a week before Election Day.

How do I know my mail ballot was received?

You can track the status of your ballot at your county elections office website. The status will indicate if you’ve requested a ballot, if it’s been sent to you, if it’s been received and if it’s been counted.

What if I forgot to sign the ballot envelope or the signature doesn’t match?

Your county elections office will contact you if your signature is missing or doesn’t match what it has on file. You’ll need to fill out a signature cure affidavit by 5 p.m. two days after Election Day.

If your signature has changed, you can update it with an online or paper voter registration application. The updated information needs to be received before they get your vote-by-mail ballot.

What if I decide to vote in person instead?

As long as the elections office hasn’t received a vote-by-mail ballot from a voter, voters can choose to cast a ballot in person. You should bring your mail ballot to your precinct and surrender it to a poll worker and they can cancel it, allowing you to vote using a regular ballot instead.