MIAMI (CBSMiami) – They’re loading them up and shipping them out. More than a quarter-million “vote by mail” ballots are being sent out by the Broward supervisor of elections starting on September 25.

With the pandemic, there are more requests than usual for mail-in ballots.

Officials say it’s safe, easy and voters should feel confident their vote will be counted.

“People always think that the mail-in ballots are counted at the end, that’s exactly the farthest from the truth,” said Michael Udine of the Canvassing Board.

“It’s counted first and reported first. When you see that number that comes out at 7:01 or whatever time on election night, that first round, that usually includes the mail-in ballots and early votes received by that time.”

On Thursday voting machines and tabulators were being tested for accuracy. All of this is to prepare for the November election.

County officials are also addressing concerns that if someone wants to vote without a mask, they will not be turned away.

Broward Mayor Dale Holness said the county will do what it can to enforce the order requiring masks.

“Whatever we can do to mitigate any problem with people not wearing facial coverings, we will do that,” Holness said.

Millions of ballots are expected to hit the mail starting Thursday for the November 3 general election in Florida.

County supervisors of elections across the Sunshine State are required to send out their first big batches of vote-by-mail ballots between Thursday and Oct. 1.

In Miami-Dade, the ballots will be sent out beginning October 1st.

Overall, more than 4.7 million vote-by-mail ballots have been requested by Florida’s 13.89 million voters.

As of Wednesday, Democrats statewide had requested 2.18 million ballots to 1.48 million sought by Republicans.

Another 990,341 had been requested by voters without party affiliations, and 55,640 were set to be sent to voters registered with third parties.

Ballots go out earlier to overseas voters and military personnel, and 2,136 had been returned Wednesday.

Democrats had returned 1,190, Republicans had returned 526, and unaffiliated voters had returned 384. Another 36 had been completed by third-party voters.

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In 2016, when 3.47 million vote-by-mail ballots were sent out, Republicans returned 1.08 million of the ballots and Democrats returned 1.03 million, as President Donald Trump won the state by 112,911 overall votes.

Florida Republicans have been working to counter Trump’s attacks this year on voting by mail in other parts of the country.

With some states sending absentee-ballot applications to all registered voters and expanding election laws to allow voters to cast ballots from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has decried the possibility of election fraud.

Trump, however, has said Florida — a crucial battleground state — is an exemplar of how mail-in voting should be conducted.

Florida requires voters to request mail-in ballots before elections officials can provide them.

The state adopted its “no-excuse” absentee-voting system in 2002, and in 2016 switched the name from “absentee” to “vote-by-mail.”

Floridians have until Oct. 5 to register to vote.

 

Here is helpful information you need to know about:

Florida overhauled its voting system after the 2000 Presidential Election recount debacle, so it’s ahead of many other states in offering alternatives to traditional in-person voting:

  • Any registered voter can safely cast a mail-in absentee ballot from home, no excuse required.
  • In-person voting starts 15 days before Election Day, helping to cut down on crowds at polling places. “We’re really encouraging older voters to treat Election Day similar to the way we treat hurricane season — consider your options in advance,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP state director.
  • Between absentee and early in-person voting, most ballots are expected to be cast before Election Day.

Here’s what else you need to know:

How do I register to vote?

You can register online through the Florida secretary of state’s website; if you prefer, you can go to that site to download a registration application to mail in. Or pick one up at any county supervisor of elections office or local library, or at a business that’s authorized to issue fishing, hunting or trapping permits. You can also register in person at driver’s license offices, tax collector’s offices, or state government offices that qualify as voter registration agencies.

You must register by Oct. 5 to vote in the Nov. 3 election.

How can I get a mail-in ballot? Are there important deadlines?

Request a ballot through your county supervisor of elections website, or contact the office in writing, in person or by phone. Immediate family members or guardians can request a ballot for someone else. A voter’s signature is required and must match the signature on file.

Mail-in ballots must be requested by Oct. 24 and received by the local supervisor of elections by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. Only some election offices pay for postage.

How do I know that my mail-in ballot is secure?

Registered voters must request a ballot. They must sign the ballot before returning it, and the signature must match what’s on file with the local election office. Election offices track ballots as they are received, to prevent anyone from voting twice. Voters who want someone else to deliver their ballot must authorize it in writing, and a person can deliver only two other ballots besides his or her own and those of immediate family members. Florida joined a consortium of other states that allows members to verify if someone is registered in more than one state.

When is Election Day? When are the polls open?

Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Can I vote before Election Day?

Early in-person voting starts as many as 15 days before Election Day, on Oct. 19, though the number of days and locations vary by county. Find early voting locations on your local supervisor of elections website, or call the office.

What form of identification do I need to vote?

A photo ID is required. The ID can be a driver’s license, passport or myriad others.

What is being done to make polling places safe from the coronavirus?

Precautions vary by county, but polling sites generally will have hand sanitizer, physical barriers separating voters from one another and from poll workers, and masks for poll workers. Many Florida cities and counties require face masks to be worn in indoor public places.

Will I be able to vote in the same place as I always have?

For the most part, yes, but some polling locations will not be open because of the coronavirus. You should be notified if your site has changed, but also check with your local supervisor of elections.

What are the key races in my state?

  • U.S. President
  • U.S. House: All 27 seats
  • All 120 seats in the state House of Representatives and 21 state Senate seats
  • Six amendments to the state constitution

Voting rules and procedures may change before Election Day. We’ll update this story if they do, so bookmark this and check back.

(©2020 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s contributed to this report.)

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