In Palm Beach County, elections officials made an error in bar codes that ensure the ballots reach their destination, delaying the arrival of dozens of ballots for voters who requested them. They made another error in the design of more than 20,000 absentee ballots — requiring elections officials to copy results onto new ballots.
The Republican-controlled Legislature has eased restrictions on absentee voting since 2000, a puzzling move for elections experts because this type of voting is more susceptible to tampering.
“Absentee ballots are where you find the fraud,” Persily said. “It doesn’t happen in person.”
Groups like True the Vote and Tampa Fair Vote will have poll watchers ready to stop anyone they suspect as ineligible to vote.
Florida law requires those challenged to vote by provisional ballot. (See No. 2.)
This effort taps into a conviction among Republicans that it’s too easy to rig the vote at the polls by impersonating other people or voting twice.
Jamie Miller, a veteran Republican strategist, said he thinks as many as 10,000 votes cast in person are fraudulent and he doesn’t trust official numbers that say such fraud is nearly non-existent.
“Any county you go to the supervisor will say there’s no fraud,” Miller said. “But they’re the most biased because to admit fraud would be their failing. At some level, there’s fraud. How much exists? I don’t know.”
Miller said having poll watchers look for fraud is the best deterrent against it. But no one knows just how many challenges are to come.
“They could be really disruptive,” said Foley. “There’s a genuine risk of over zealousness, and that could create real problems.”
In Florida, it’s relatively easy to challenge someone.
“It’s only a misdemeanor to falsely accuse someone,” Smith said.
“Meanwhile, it gives poll workers something else to deal with. They already have enough on their hands.”
Every 10 years, many voters get assigned a new precinct because of redistricting. This is one of those years.
In Pinellas County, for example, about 20 percent of the 626,000 registered voters have new polling locations, said Nancy Whitlock, a spokeswoman for Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark. All registered voters were sent new information cards in June and July detailing their new precincts. If voters go to their old precincts, they can fill out a form that allows them to cut in line so they don’t have to wait at their correct polling location, Whitlock said.
But some doubt the publicity has sunk in.
“I don’t think people are aware of this,” said Macnab. “We won’t know until the polls open.”