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 way:
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.