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#ProtectYourVote: 10 News debunks polling place myths

7:28 PM, Nov 5, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Florida -  With its #ProtectYourVote campaign in full-swing, investigating and preventing voter suppression and polling place problems across Florida, 10 News aims to get voters prepared for Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6.

These are the top five myths about Florida's polling places:

Myth 1: Provisional ballots don't get counted
According to the Florida Division of Elections, a provisional ballot "is always counted when the voter is shown to be registered and eligible, regardless of the closeness of the outcome of the election."

While numerous reports have exposed large numbers of provisional ballots disqualified by canvassing boards across Florida, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark says it is more of a symptom of serious voter mistakes than a system stacked against voters.

"Provisional ballots are actually a safety net," Clark said.  "No voter should leave (the polling place) without casting a ballot." 

Voters who forget their ID will have to fill out provisional ballots, but if the signature on the ballot matches the signature on-file, the ballot will be automatically accepted.

Often, voters failing to update their addresses before voting will cause unnecessarily high numbers of provisional ballots.  But you can avoid headaches by updating your address with your local supervisor of elections and making sure you vote at the right precinct.

Citrus Co. Find precinct Update address
Hardee Co. Find precinct Update address
Hernando Co. Find precinct Update address
Highlands Co. Find precinct Update address
Hillsborough Co. Find precinct Update address
Manatee Co. Find precinct Update address
Pasco Co. Find precinct Update address
Pinellas Co. Find precinct Update address
Polk Co. Find precinct Update address
Sarasota Co. Find precinct Update address


MYTH 2: You need your voter ID card to vote
The voter ID card your local supervisor of elections office sent you isn't necessary at the polling place.  However, Florida requires a current, valid photo ID with a signature.  Otherwise, you must fill out a provisional ballot.

Valid forms of identification include:

  • Florida driver's license
  • Florida identification card issued by the DHSMV
  • United States passport
  • Debit or credit card
  • Military identification
  • Student identification
  • Retirement center identification
  • Neighborhood association identification
  • Public assistance identification.

If the picture identification does not contain a signature, you will be asked to provide an additional identification with your signature.  Out-of-state licenses are not sufficient.

MYTH 3: You should take pictures in the polling place for documentation
Despite the messages circulating on social media, you should not try to interrogate and/or document poll workers over the slightest issues.

Photography and videotaping are both prohibited in polling places in Florida. 

With poll workers and poll watchers from each major party in virtually every precinct in Florida, election experts encourage you to remain polite and cooperative if any problems pop up when you try to vote.  No process is perfect, but the provisional ballot "safety net" is there to fix most of the problems.

MYTH 4: You cannot wear campaign appearal into the polling place
While campaigning within 100 feet of a precinct is illegal in Florida, simply wearing a campaign T-shirt or button is not.

According to Rule 1S-2.034 in the Florida Administrative Code, "Voters may wear campaign buttons, shirts, hats, or any other campaign items when they enter the polling place to vote; voters may not otherwise campaign there."

MYTH 5: Mail ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6
The deadline for local elections offices to receive mail-in/absentee ballots is 7 p.m. on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 6).  So voters who haven't mailed their ballots yet but want to be sure they are counted, should hand-deliver them to any local elections office.

If you deliver a mail ballot to your local voting precinct, you may be asked to fill out a standard ballot instead.  The rules differ for many active military members.

And absentee ballots received by elections offices prior to Election Day are often the first to be counted and released, dispelling another myth that mail ballots are only counted in close races.

OTHER MYTHS:
See the Florida Division of Elections website for more details on common misunderstandings at the polls.

Previous #ProtectYourVote coverage:
11/3/12 -
Lawmaker responds to upset servicemembers who can't vote
11/2/12 - Servicemembers upset about being removed from voting rolls
10/31/12 - More mailer publicizing your voting history
10/31/12 - Group exposing your voting history to your neighbors...legally
10/30/12 - Some voters didn't know their precinct changed
10/29/12 - Voting problems? 10 News will investigate
10/26/12 - Are 11 ballot amendments intentionally confusing?
10/24/12 - FBI investigating phony letters to Fla. Republicans
10/23/12 - Fla. Division of Elections warns about phony letters
10/11/12 - Obama campaign illicitly in Pasco schools?
10/3/12 - RPOF vendor investigated for fake registrations
10/2/12 - Supervisor warns of misleading robocalls
4/23/11 - Critics claim new voting bill will suppress voters

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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