I tried to avoid posting any blog about the embarrassment that
is Broward County’s election system. I almost made it. One
interesting tid-bit from this fiasco has a unique relationship
with the way we run our condo and HOA elections in this state.
In condo elections and sometimes in HOA elections
and in recall cases for both types of communities, unit owners
are required to execute ballots or exterior envelopes if they
want their votes counted. Time and again, boards seek to reject
some of these ballots or votes because those in charge believe
that the signature of the person on the envelope or ballot does
not match the signature already on file with the association.
Time and again, arbitrators with the Department of Business and
Professional Regulation write opinions that say unless the
decision to reject someone’s signature is supported by an
affidavit of the person who says “that’s not my signature” or
the opinion of a professional handwriting expert, the signature
must be accepted. Sounds logical. Any other way of doing this
would allow untrained persons the ability to reject signatures
if they differed in any manner from the signature already on
file. It would lead to absurdity.
And that’s where Florida’s election laws come in.
At absurdity. A federal judge recently framed the issue this
The precise issue in this case is whether
Florida’s law that allows county election officials to reject
vote-by-mail and provisional ballots for mismatched signature –
with no standards, an illusory process to cure, and no process
to challenge the rejection --- passes constitutional muster.
The answer is simple. It does not.
In Florida, County canvassing boards get to confirm that
signatures on the mail-in envelopes match the signatures already
on file. These board members are staffed by laypersons that are
not required to undergo formal handwriting analysis education or
training. Moreover, Florida has no formalized statewide
procedure for canvassing boards to evaluate whether the
signature on a vote by mail ballot matches the signature on file
with the elections office. If the canvassing board believes the
signature on the vote by mail ballot does not correspond to the
signature on file with the supervisor of elections office, the
ballot is deemed “illegal” and is therefore rejected. Then, the
supervisor shall immediately notify the voter and the voter may
cure by 5pm on the day before the election.
Believe it or not, there is a right to challenge any
accepted mail in ballot as not having a valid signature. But,
there is no right to challenge a decision that rejects a ballot
for not having a valid signature.
But wait it gets worse…….The canvassing board can begin its
review of mail in ballots “no later than noon on the day
following the election.” But if there is a bad signature the
voter gets no chance to cure because curing must be done by 5
p.m. the day before the election. And, in terms of provisional
ballots, there is no mechanism under Florida law to challenge
the canvassing board’s determination that the voter was or was
not eligible to vote.
In sum, the federal court judge opined that our
state-wide voting system is badly broken and unconstitutional.
So, the next time you think the voting process in your condo or
HOA is bad, rest assured that’s it’s not nearly as bad as the
procedure for the real elections. And as Floridians, that
should make all of us, Republican or Democrat, angry that it was
allowed to get this bad for this long.