At least one board member is present when elections employees address the vote-by-mail ballots. Elections employees carefully inspect the mailing envelopes before they are opened, matching the voter’s signature with the signature on file. If the signature matches, the mailing envelope is ready to be opened and the ballot is ready to be tabulated. If the signature does not match, the voter is notified and is given an opportunity to address the issue.
If there is still any question regarding a voter’s signature, the unopened envelope is presented to the canvassing board.
In order for the canvassing board to reject a vote-by-mail ballot based on a mismatched signature, it must be by a majority vote and beyond a reasonable doubt.
Canvassing board members ensure that all vote-by-mail ballots are counted by comparing the number of ballots in possession with the number of requests for ballots received.
“The Canvassing Board does all of its work in public, with notice to the public, and our decisions are made by majority, so, at least 2 out of the 3 members,” Inman said.
“We, at times, work with members of the public literally watching over our shoulders, and have discussed the board’s duties with members of the media and the public,” Inman said.
The canvassing board’s work is crucial to strengthen trust in our democratic process and safeguards a free and fair election. To uphold the integrity of the election process, the canvassing board takes the time to review ballots and ensures that each vote is properly counted.
On Election Day, the canvassing board is tasked with reporting vote-by-mail and early voting results to the Department of State within 30 minutes after the polls close.
Every 45 minutes after that, the canvassing board members report updated precinct election results – minus provisional ballots which require deeper inspection – until all results are complete.
The canvassing board then certifies the total number of votes cast for each person nominated or elected, the names of persons for whom such votes were cast, and the number of votes for each candidate or nominee, and that information is transmitted to the Department of State.
FOLLOWING THE ELECTION
Within seven days of certifying the election results, the canvassing board randomly selects precincts and completes an independent, automated or manual audit of the voting system. If the canvassing board opts to manually audit, they need only count one race from one precinct, counting all election-day, vote-by-mail, early voting, provisional, and overseas ballots from 1-2% of the precincts. Automated audits count all votes cast across every race on the ballot from at least 20% of the precincts.
Fifteen days after the completion of the audit, the canvassing board reports the results to the Department of State, noting the accuracy of the audit, a description of any problems or discrepancies and what may have caused them, as well as any corrective action that will avoid or mitigate such circumstances in future elections.
Sarasota County Court Judge Maryann Boehm said, “The canvassing board’s work is crucial to strengthen trust in our democratic process and safeguards a free and fair election. To uphold the integrity of the election process, the canvassing board takes the time to review ballots and ensures that each vote is properly counted.”
County canvassing board duties is another way the judicial branch plays a role that benefits us all.
For more information on Florida elections, visit the Department of State’s Division of Elections.