Lee County supervisor of elections urges voters follow directions for ballot submission

Millions of people in Florida are rushing to ensure their ballots are filled out, but some votes won’t count. It’s all because of a mistake many voters are making while filling out their ballot. We looked at what voters need to do to ensure their vote counts.

Instructions to make sure your vote counts are at the top of your ballot. Tommy Doyle, Lee County’s Supervisor of Elections, says thousands of voters failed to follow the directions.

One of the most common mistakes: People are filling in the bubble for a candidate and then writing their name on the line provided for a write-in choice.

“This person bubbled in Trump, bubbled in write-in, wrote in Trump and did the same thing for the commission race,” Doyle said.

That ballot can’t be counted. For those who vote in person, the voting machine will show the voter a message that says, “In the contest for these, you have voted twice.”

The poll worker can then give the voter a new ballot to fill in correctly. But, if a voter doesn’t notice the message on the voting machine, the elections office must intervene.

“If he walks away, we cast it for him,” Doyle said. “And those races will never be counted.”

That means the vote in that specific race is no good. Doyle says his office doesn’t know how many times this has possibly happened already during early voting.

Doyle told us poll workers try their hardest to make sure every vote counts. Staffers at the polls will try and catch voters if you make a mistake, and the elections office is spending countless hours duplicating the ballots that it can.

If there is clear intent on a ballot that is not submitted correctly, the vote can still be made to count by the elections office. But if someone, for example, bubbles in two different candidates for the same race, the canvassing board will disqualify the vote, and it won’t count.

“I’ve seen every bubble bubbled in,” Doyle said.

For mail-in voting, there’s also a system in place to correct any obvious errors.

“We’ve always gone to the polls, always,” Tom Jones said. “And this year, we decided, opted not to do it.”

Tom and Cathy Jones dropped their ballot mail-in ballots off at the poling precinct. They wanted to get it right.

“We read the instructions in front of each other twice to make sure,” Tom said.

They know, if a mistake is made, there is not always a chance to correct it. Voters can’t be notified either, Supervisor Tommy Doyle said.

“Once we’ve taken it out of the envelope, we have no access to that,” Doyle said. “We don’t know who the ballot belongs to, and that’s the way it should be.”

Doyle told us, if you fill in the bubble for multiple different candidates, say goodbye to your vote for that race.

“So it’s very important to have one bubble for each race,” Doyle said.

If you bubble in a candidate’s name and then write in the same name again, it’s a lot of extra work, but it can be helped.

“We’re able to catch it and review it and fix it,” Doyle said.

That’s the same if you vote with a pencil instead of a black or blue pen.

“It’ll tell you it’s unclear marks,” Doyle said.

The staffers will duplicate the ballot for you.

“Right now, I think we’ve probably duplicated a couple thousand ballots already,” Doyle said.

The canvassing board sifts through mistakes on a daily basis.

“We don’t like to touch anybody’s ballot,” Doyle said. “But in order to get it tabulated, we have to at times.”

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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