Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Monday issued a new directive regarding absentee ballot voting, clarifying that ballots must be returned only to local election supervisor offices.
“Supervisors should not solicit return of absentee ballots at any place other than a supervisor’s office, except for the purpose of having the absentee ballot canceled if the voter wants to vote in person,” Detzner wrote in the directive.
Brittanly Lesser, communications director at the Florida Department of State said that Detzner issued the directive after a county elections supervisor requested a clarification about absentee ballot returns.
Detzner said that absentee ballots can only be returned to polling places for the purpose of cancelling them.
“While a voter must return an absentee ballot to the supervisor in order for it to be counted, a voter may instead elect to vote in person by delivering the absentee ballot to the voter’s precinct or an early voting cite to be cancelled,” he wrote.
Some county officials in Florida told the Tampa Bay Times Herald that the new directive will suppress voter turnout, as it keeps elections officials from setting up absentee dropoff sites in more convenient locations.
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said that she has used dropoff sites since 2008, and is worried that the new directive will make it difficult for many to vote in the upcoming special election for the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young’s seat in the 13th district.
“The potential effect on voters is that it reduces opportunities for them to return their ballots,” Clark told the Times Herald. “This is not promoting ballot accessibility. I’m very worried about this. I’m just stunned.”