(1) The supervisor of the county where the absent elector resides shall receive the voted ballot, at which time the supervisor shall compare the signature of the elector on the voter’s certificate with the signature of the elector in the registration books to determine whether the elector is duly registered in the county and may record on the elector’s registration certificate that the elector has voted. However, effective July 1, 2005, an elector who dies after casting an absentee ballot but on or before election day shall remain listed in the registration books until the results have been certified for the election in which the ballot was cast. The supervisor shall safely keep the ballot unopened in his or her office until the county canvassing board canvasses the vote. After an absentee ballot is received by the supervisor, the ballot is deemed to have been cast, and changes or additions may not be made to the voter’s certificate.
(2)(a) The county canvassing board may begin the canvassing of absentee ballots at 7 a.m. on the sixth day before the election, but not later than noon on the day following the election. In addition, for any county using electronic tabulating equipment, the processing of absentee ballots through such tabulating equipment may begin at 7 a.m. on the sixth day before the election. However, notwithstanding any such authorization to begin canvassing or otherwise processing absentee ballots early, no result shall be released until after the closing of the polls in that county on election day. Any supervisor of elections, deputy supervisor of elections, canvassing board member, election board member, or election employee who releases the results of a canvassing or processing of absentee ballots prior to the closing of the polls in that county on election day commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(b) To ensure that all absentee ballots to be counted by the canvassing board are accounted for, the canvassing board shall compare the number of ballots in its possession with the number of requests for ballots received to be counted according to the supervisor’s file or list.
(c)1. The canvassing board shall, if the supervisor has not already done so, compare the signature of the elector on the voter’s certificate with the signature of the elector in the registration books to see that the elector is duly registered in the county and to determine the legality of that absentee ballot. The ballot of an elector who casts an absentee ballot shall be counted even if the elector dies on or before election day, as long as, prior to the death of the voter, the ballot was postmarked by the United States Postal Service, date-stamped with a verifiable tracking number by common carrier, or already in the possession of the supervisor of elections. An absentee ballot shall be considered illegal if it does not include the signature of the elector, as shown by the registration records. However, an absentee ballot shall not be considered illegal if the signature of the elector does not cross the seal of the mailing envelope. If the canvassing board determines that any ballot is illegal, a member of the board shall, without opening the envelope, mark across the face of the envelope: “rejected as illegal.” The envelope and the ballot contained therein shall be preserved in the manner that official ballots voted are preserved.
2. If any elector or candidate present believes that an absentee ballot is illegal due to a defect apparent on the voter’s certificate, he or she may, at any time before the ballot is removed from the envelope, file with the canvassing board a protest against the canvass of that ballot, specifying the precinct, the ballot, and the reason he or she believes the ballot to be illegal. A challenge based upon a defect in the voter’s certificate may not be accepted after the ballot has been removed from the mailing envelope.
(d) The canvassing board shall record the ballot upon the proper record, unless the ballot has been previously recorded by the supervisor. The mailing envelopes shall be opened and the secrecy envelopes shall be mixed so as to make it impossible to determine which secrecy envelope came out of which signed mailing envelope; however, in any county in which an electronic or electromechanical voting system is used, the ballots may be sorted by ballot styles and the mailing envelopes may be opened and the secrecy envelopes mixed separately for each ballot style. The votes on absentee ballots shall be included in the total vote of the county.
(3) The supervisor or the chair of the county canvassing board shall, after the board convenes, have custody of the absentee ballots until a final proclamation is made as to the total vote received by each candidate.
(4) The supervisor of elections shall, on behalf of the county canvassing board, notify each elector whose ballot was rejected as illegal because of a difference between the elector’s signature on the ballot and that on the elector’s voter registration record. The supervisor shall mail a voter registration application to the elector to be completed indicating the elector’s current signature. This section does not prohibit the supervisor from providing additional methods for updating an elector’s signature.
History.—s. 5, ch. 26870, 1951; s. 37, ch. 28156, 1953; s. 36, ch. 65-380; s. 6, ch. 69-280; s. 3, ch. 75-174; s. 23, ch. 77-175; s. 41, ch. 79-400; s. 3, ch. 86-33; s. 591, ch. 95-147; s. 7, ch. 96-57; s. 20, ch. 98-129; s. 56, ch. 2001-40; s. 17, ch. 2002-17; s. 3, ch. 2004-232; s. 47, ch. 2005-277; s. 31, ch. 2007-30.