Florida may dial back proposed mail-in voting changes after identity theft concerns raised

ORLANDO, Fla. — Another overhaul of the way Florida conducts mail-in voting may be delayed and watered down after local elections supervisors reported the proposal was unfeasible and may lead to increased cases of identity theft.

During the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers asked the state to spend the year looking into beefing up mail-in ballot security and cutting down on the potential for fraud.

Their proposed idea was simple: have voters add their ID – either their driver’s license or the last four digits of their social security number – to their mail-in ballot envelope when they submit their ballot so workers could check them against the state database before the ballot is counted.


In a letter posted to the Department of State last month, local elections supervisors raised a series of concerns about the idea.

First, the envelopes would have to be designed in a way that protected a person’s identity, meaning they’d no longer be compatible with the machines that are typically used to process the envelopes and would require some degree of manual intervention.

Any of the scenarios laid out by the supervisors would lengthen the amount of time needed to process the ballots and increase costs, they said, not to mention encountering potential paper shortages while sourcing the new materials.

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Secondly, the supervisors said the process could lead to more ballots being thrown out, either because a voter forgets to write their ID on the envelope, the handwriting isn’t legible, or because most voters register with their driver’s license but verify their identity with their social security number.

“Under current law, voters have no cure option,” the letter stated.

Finally – and most concerningly – the supervisors said requiring personal information next to an already-required signature could lead to more cases of identity theft.

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“That was the big thing,” Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays, who was on the committee that wrote the letter, said. “At the risk of boring you to death, the social security number or driver’s license number has to already be in the voter record before we ever send a vote-by-mail ballot to them.”

Hays, like many Florida officials, calls the state’s election systems the gold standard for the nation. Following the disaster of the 2000 presidential election, politicians in both parties spent the better part of two decades making voting easier and more efficient, while ensuring only a handful of cases of fraud could emerge.

Like elections before, the 2020 election saw no instances of widespread voter fraud and only a handful of individual cases across the state, unlike a scandal that would emerge surrounding so-called “ghost candidates.”

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Hays and his fellow supervisors take the position: if it isn’t broken, it isn’t worth overhauling.

“We do it right,” Hays said. “It’s very accurate, very secure, and very timely in the results. So with that, the question is, if it’s that good, why would you do a major change to it?”

State officials appear to be listening. In a report sent to lawmakers Wednesday night, Department of State workers recommended delaying any changes to vote-by-mail systems until after the 2024 election.

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They avoided any recommendation of adding voter IDs to ballot envelopes, instead proposing a series of tweaks, clarifications and slight modifications to the process, including:

  • A statewide application form to request a vote-by-mail ballot
  • Require elections supervisors to verify IDs when a vote-by-mail ballot is requested, and add missing IDs to their database when one is discovered
  • Require elections supervisors to verify signatures on vote-by-mail ballot requests
  • Eliminate telephone vote-by-mail ballot requests
  • Require vote-by-mail ballot envelopes to clearly state “Do Not Forward”
  • Allow for a voter (or their family member) to pick up a vote-by-mail ballot during early voting when an emergency prohibits them from voting in-person
  • Require first-time Florida voters who registered by mail and don’t have an ID to vote in-person
  • Clarify what happens when a vote-by-mail envelope returns with two ballots
  • Clarify what happens when someone moves to another county after casting a vote-by-mail ballot

“We will take this report right here, do some fine tuning on it, and the people Florida, I think, will be quite pleased,” Hays said, adding that he thought the prohibition on calling in a request for a mail-in ballot was restrictive. “I’ve not had any of the legislators that I’ve spoken with indicate a desire to have a major overhaul of the system.”

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