County officials say a new election law sparked the flood of people who needed to cast provisional ballots, which are used when a voter’s eligibility is in question and are not always counted. “There were off the charts more,” said Chris Chambless, Clay County’s supervisor of elections. His county normally sees about 20 of these ballots. This year, the number ballooned to nearly 400. An election law passed in 2011 required voters who moved to a new county and did not change their address before voting to use a provisional ballot. Before that, Florida voters had been able to change their address on election day. “It was like putting gum in the engine of the voting process,” said Deirdre McNabb, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. Her group opposed the provision ballot change.
Duval County saw roughly 8,000 provisional ballots, an increase of about 1,500 from 2008, the last presidential election.
“Most of that is from the new law,” said Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland, whose office has until Saturday to wade through the ballots.
When the provisional ballot change was being written, McNabb’s group argued it was designed to suppress the vote.
“I can’t get in the heads of these lawmakers, but there was no good reason to do this,” she said.
Opponents say the new law hits transient populations like college students the hardest.
“Forcing a first-time voter to face a provisional is not a good way to get them to vote again,” she said.
Though election officials were expecting an increase, the sheer numbers surprised some.
“I said, ‘wow, there must be something wrong with the report’ when I saw the number,” said Nassau County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Cannon.
Her county saw nearly 170 provisional ballots, up 70 from 2010.