SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — The U.S. Postal Service's warning about possible delays for mail-in ballots has some voters concerned, but local supervisors of elections say voters should still have confidence in the mail-in voting system, and they're working to make sure all ballots arrive in time.
“[Voters] should look at vote-by-mail as an insurance policy,” said Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett.
"You don't know if you're going to get sick...If you had that 'insurance policy' in your hand, and that ballot all filled out, you could take it by yourself or you could send someone else to drop it off,” he said.
So, if the headlines about possible postal service delays feel scary, voters can avoid the post office altogether.
"We put up 23 mail ballot drop-off locations strategically located throughout Pinellas County so the vast majority of our voters are within three miles of a mail valid drop-off location. So, they can actually bring their ballot...to a deputized election worker,” said Pinellas County Deputy Supervisor of Elections Dustin Chase.
Voters can also take mail-in ballots to other voting locations.
"You can always bring one of the vote-by-mail ballots to any of my four offices, and you can always drop them at any of the 24 early vote sites during early voting,” said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.
Just make sure they’re in on time.
"Vote-by-mail ballots cannot be returned to polling locations on Election Day. Florida law does not allow that. However, a voter can still return the vote-by-mail ballot to us,” said Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner.
If your ballot is already in the mail, check with your local county on how it's tracked.
“We put a barcode on every envelope is going out. We know who requested it. You can't get it unless you requested it,” Bennett said. “When we get it back from you...we immediately scan it and see who sent it back…”
In Hillsborough County, voters can get notifications when their ballot is received. "We're using a new service this year, you can opt-in with a cell phone number and or an email address, and it will tell you as soon as it gets back to my office,” Latimer said.
It’s another layer of insurance for voters doing their part for democracy.
"They're depending on us right now again to make sure that their ballots are accessible, that they're counted fairly and that their voices are heard," Turner said.
Many local counties said due to COVID-19, they are seeing the highest number of mail-in ballots ever. Those planning to vote in-person should check their polling location first, as some locations have been consolidated due to the virus.
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