Frequently Asked Questions About Voting

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FAQ - Vote By Mail

Nothing. In Florida the term “absentee ballot was replaced by “vote by mail” in the state statues in 2016, since Florida voters do not need an excuse (such as being absent) to vote by mail.

Florida is a “Closed Primary” state. In order to vote in partisan races, a major party affiliation is required in Florida Primary Elections. (R or D; there are no other major parties registered).

IMPORTANT: Only if a partisan race has no opponents from any other party, can voters of all affiliations cast their ballots (Including no-party affiliated voters). On August 18th this exception applies to the Miami-Dade State Attorney race Rundle vs. Pearson.

YES. But only in non-partisan races. That includes County Commissioners, Mayors, Judges and Property Appraiser and ballot measures.

Follow these guidelines to ensure your vote is valid and counted:

  • DON’T FORGET to sign the OUTSIDE of the VBM envelope!
  • Fill out the ballot with BLACK or BLUE INK. No pencil or other colors.
  • Mail your VBM ballot back to the Elections Department as soon as possible. It is the VOTER’s responsibility to ensure the ballot is received by 7PM on Election Day.
  • Only fill in your own VBM ballot. Be careful not to mix it up with another family member’s ballot.
  • Take into consideration the possibility that a high volume might slow down the Postal Service. Mail your ballot EARLY! The Election Department Staff is available to answer your questions. Contact them by phone at 305.499.VOTE (8683) or by email: VoteByMail@MiamiDade.gov  or find more answers on their website: www.MiamiDade.gov/elections

Yes. Voters must request their VBM ballot not later than 5PM 10 days before any election.

Click here to request a Vote-By-Mail Ballot

No. Requesting a VBM ballot allows you to vote by mail – OR in person. Your options are: Mail your ballot. Drop your ballot off at a voting location (early or on election day). Or vote in person.

If a voter has received a VBM ballot, but decides to vote in person, they can vote at any early voting location, or on Election Day at their precinct polling location. It is not necessary to bring the VBM ballot, BUT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to avoid any challenges.

Voters have several options to return their vote-by-mail ballots:

  • Return your ballot by mail with plenty of time to arrive at the Election Department. Budget 4-5 days to be safe (weekends not included). Some voters use registered mail to confirm when their ballot was received. It is the voter’s responsibility to ensure the ballot is received by 7PM on Election Day.

If you do not want to mail your ballot,

  • Hand in your VBM ballot in person at any early voting location in Miami-Dade County. Early voting starts August 3rd and ends August 16th.
  • Hand in your VBM ballot on August 18th, Election Day, at your precinct’s Voting Location. Polls are open from 7AM to 7PM.
  • You can also drop off your VBM ballot in person at the Election Department on 2700 NW 87 Avenue, Miami, FL 33172.
  • You can have a DESGINEE drop off your ballot for you. Follow the steps outlined by the Department of Elections.

All VBM ballots must be received by 7PM on Election Day in order to be legitimate and be counted.

Yes. The Miami-Dade Department of Elections has implemented many safety measures to ensure the integrity of vote-by-mail voting. Voters can TRACK THEIR BALLOT on line.

Please view this INFO VIDEO by the Miami-Dade Department of Election. If you have additional questions, call the Elections Department 305.499.VOTE (8683).

There are several good reasons why voting by mail is a good idea. 

  • You receive your ballot approximately 3-4 weeks prior to Election Day. This gives you time to review the ballot, ask questions, inform yourself about candidates, judges and other positions – as well as ballot measures. You can make these decisions in the comfort of your home – and with plenty of time to make an informed choice.
  • In case of illness, the fear of infection (COVID-19) or an unexpected absence (travel) – you have the option to mail in your ballot.
  • Voter turnout goes up by about 12-28% (depending on the voter’s demographic) when a vote-by-mail ballot is requested. That means approximately one quarter more voters participate in the democratic process of selecting their representatives.
  • It’s a safe, comfortable and convenient way to vote.

Once the Department of Elections receives your ballot and finds a problem  – you will be notified of the problem and offered an opportunity to “CURE YOUR BALLOT”. The most common issues is that the SIGNATURE on your envelope does not match the Election Department’s records. To correct your signature,

  • fill out THIS FORM (Spanish/Creole) and return it to the Department of Elections NOT LATER THAN by 5PM the 2nd Day after the Election.
  • You can drop off the form in person at 2700 NW 87 Avenue, Miami, FL 33172, email it to vbmaffidavits@miamidade.gov or fax it to 305-275-7760.
  • Questions? Call the Dept. of Elections 305.499.VOTE(8683)

We recommend to take a photo of your form before surrendering it.

In general the application for a vote by mail ballot is valid through the calendar year of two general elections and must then be renewed. It is recommended to check your VBM status before every election.

Every voter is eligible to vote by mail. That includes

  • Students who attend university outside Florida.
  • Homeless persons (they can use the address of a shelter; no churches)

Persons who are currently in jail but have not yet been convicted of a felony.

As soon as the Dept. of Elections receives voters’ ballots, counting and signature verification begins. Votes are tabulated as ballots arrive. All VBM ballots will be counted, even after polling stations close.
IMPORTANT: If the number of not-yet-counted ballots could affect the outcome of a race, the election will NOT BE CALLED ON ELECTION NIGHT.

All votes, in person or VBM votes, will be entered into the Elections Department’s system and data base (you can track your ballot here).
That you voted and how you voted, is public record; the record will show if you have voted in person, voted early or voted by mail. It does NOT show what candidates you have voted for. You can make a public record request to see the history of your voting record.
SUGGESTION: to help the Elections Department to contact you in case of a signature discrepancy, list a phone number or email address on the outside of the VBM envelope. You do not have to list your name.

If your vote by mail ballot was lost or misplaced, you can make a vbm ballot replacement request by submitting the Replacement Mail Ballot Oath via THIS FORM. The Election Department must receive it not later than 7PM on Election Day. You can submit it by mail, or in person. If you want your replacement VBM ballot mailed to you, that request has to be made by 5PM 10 days prior to any election.

No. The Election Department checks that only ballots from voters with a VBM ballot request on record are counted. If you have not requested to vote by mail, but use someone else’s ballot, it will be considered invalid and  NOT BE COUNTED. Tampering with another voter’s mail ballot is punishable by law.

The number of “uncounted ballots” is public record and very low. In Miami-Dade that number ranges from 1.56 to 2.5% of all submitted VBM ballots. Every vote should be counted – and the Election Department is making great efforts for that to happen. Voters can contribute to that success by carefully following the guidelines on the ballot.

Around 50% of all uncounted ballots in 2016 and 2018, were invalid because voters did not sign the ballot envelopes – and did not respond to the ballot cure request. The remaining uncounted ballots included voters who have moved out of the county, died, used someone else’s ballot or filled out the ballot incorrectly.

FAQ - Judicial Races

Judges make decisions on a wide range of issues large and small including traffic, small claims, landlord-tenant, personal injury, criminal, death penalty, probate, guardianship and others.

  • County Judges hear criminal misdemeanors – those are crimes that have possible sentences of up to one year in jail. They also hear civil cases in which the amount in dispute is $ 30,000 or less.
  • Circuit Judges deal with criminal felonies, domestic relations, juvenile matters, probate issues and civil cases in which the disputed amount is greater than $30,000. In Miami-Dade (11th Circuit) there are 20 judges in the Civil Division, 18 judges in the Criminal Division and 9 judges in the Domestic Violence Division.
  • Appellate Judges (on the five District Courts of Appeal) and the Florida Supreme Court review the decisions of county and circuit judges.

In nonpartisan elections, candidates appear on the ballot without a reference to any political party (e.g. Democrat or Republican). Florida law requires judicial elections to be nonpartisan in order to preserve the impartiality of the judge’s decision. That applies to County, Circuit, Appeals and Surpreme Court Judges

No. These judges were appointed by the governor. When they appear on the ballot voters decide if they should be retained, or not. A “YES” vote means you want the judge to remain on the court. A “NO” vote means you want the judge removed. The majority of voters decides.

Yes. Both run against opponents if there is more than one candidate for the same position. Voters have to choose one of the candidates.

No. Currently, County and Circuit Judges are elected to 6 year terms. Only if a judge retires, resigns or dies before the end of the term, the governor appoints a judge to fill the position.

The 7 judges on the Florida Supreme Court and the judges of the 5 District Court of Appeals are appointed by the governor – and then run in merit retention elections where voters decide if they should stay in office.

Judicial candidates are prohibited from making predictions and promises about issues that could arise once they are on the court because their job is to make impartial decisions that relate to the law on the case before them.

No. Judges have no limits on the number of times they may be elected. However, judges may not service in Florida past the age of 75 (except upon temporary assignment).

Circuit and County Judges are elected for six-year terms.

To retain their seats, they must be re-elected. Judges who were appointed to County or Circuit Court through a vacancy must sit for election at the end of the remainder of the appointed terms. Appellate Judges, appointed by the governor, run in merit retention elections for six-year terms.

Florida requires that judges be elected (County/Circuit Courts) or retained (Appellate/Supreme Court) by the voters, so the power over who holds these important positions rests with the voters.

Judges make decisions on a wide range of issues large and small including traffic, small claims, landlord-tenant, personal injury, criminal, death penalty, probate, guardianship and others.

Yes. This can happen after an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The JQC (www.Floridajqc.com) is an independent agency created through the Florida Constitution to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges.

There are several sources for that information.

  1. Florida Bar Association Guide for Voters: https://www.floridabar.org/public/faircts/votes010/votes002/
  2. Florida Supreme Court Website: https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/
  3. Appellate Courts: https://www.3dca.flcourts.org/
  4. Circuit Courts: https://www.flcourts.org/Florida-Courts/Trial-Courts-Circuit
  5. County Courts: https://www.flcourts.org/Florida-Courts/Trial-Courts-County
  6. Florida Division of Elections – Searchable Database: dos.myflorida.com/elections

 

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