Absentee ballots are often touted as a pain-free, easy way to cast a vote without having to stand in long lines at a polling station.
But nearly 2,500 Miami-Dade County voters had their absentee ballots rejected this election in what amounts to a wake-up call for those who ignore or fall prey to the pitfalls of not voting in person.
In Broward and Palm Beach counties, about 2,100 and 1,400 absentees were rejected, respectively.
A majority of absentee ballots were rejected because they arrived well after Nov. 6 at the elections office.
Many voters were angry. They cast their mail-in ballots from home for convenience, only to face a greater inconvenience when their vote didn’t count.
“I voted absentee because I realized lines in Miami-Dade County would be horrendous and I didn’t feel I wanted to deal with that hassle,” Patricia Tepedino, a 45-year-old Democratic Obama voter, wrote in an email.
Tepedino’s ballot was received Nov. 19. So it didn’t count. And now Tepedino says the experience “kind of does” give her pause about absentee-ballot voting in the future. Others said this was the first and last time they’d vote absentee.
Some voters forgot to sign their ballots. The county elections office negated others because the signature on the ballot didn’t match the voter’s on-file John Hancock.
And four voters appear to have died before their absentee ballots were received at the elections offices in Miami-Dade and Broward, which also cancelled the attempted votes of four convicted felons.
The Miami Herald contacted more than 1,000 Miami-Dade voters, hundreds of whom responded by email and by phone with explanations and recriminations concerning their rejected absentee ballots.
A large number of voters blamed the post office or the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which interrupted mail service in New York, where many Floridians live part-time. They said their ballots often arrived from the county just before or on Election Day.
A few criticized consulates or embassies from Abu Dhabi to Mexico to Jerusalem.
A family of three in Cali, Colombia had all of their ballots tossed for technical reasons. In Jerusalem, 56-year-old Ben Rose said he put his absentee ballot in the mail along with his wife’s at the same time. His ballot arrived Nov. 19 and didn’t count. His wife’s made it Oct. 21.
More people than ever voted by absentee ballot this year — nearly 2.4 million in Florida. About 245,000 came from Miami-Dade, of which about 1 percent were rejected, about the same rate as in 2008.
Only Pinellas County in Tampa Bay had more absentee ballots cast, about 250,000, of which 0.6 percent were rejected. Voters in neighboring Hillsborough County cast 171,000, of which 1 percent were rejected.
Broward County cast the third-highest number of absentee ballots in Florida, about 172,000, of which 1.2 percent were rejected.
Palm Beach County, which had the fifth-highest number of absentee ballots cast, about 129,000, rejected about 1.1 percent.
All together, that means more than 9,100 votes were rejected in the five counties with the largest number of absentee ballots.
Total statewide figures won’t be available until the end of the month and will change as more absentee ballots arrive late.
President Barack Obama’s margin of victory over Mitt Romney in Florida was less than 1 percent — about 74,000 votes.