Marine recruit Wesley Layman Clemons thought he’d done everything possible to vote while he was in training at U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina this fall. He requested an Orange County absentee ballot, filled it out, signed it, sealed it, stamped it and mailed it. Tuesday, he found out from a reporter that his ballot was thrown out — and his vote didn’t count in the Nov. 6 election. The reason: His signature on the ballot didn’t match an earlier one that was on file in the election office, a problem that caused more than 1,400 ballots to be rejected across Central Florida this fall.
“I did my so-called patriotic duty and voted, but apparently someone didn’t think it was a legitimate vote … ,” said Clemons, who is 23 and returned to Orlando last month after a medical discharge. “I’m just ready to toss this phone through the freakin’ window. …”
Clemons said his signature has never changed, and he’s stumped as to why the county’s canvassing board would think otherwise. But it’s too late to do anything about it.
He’s one of 603 Orange County voters whose absentee ballots were rejected by the three-member canvassing board in the Nov. 6 election because of non-matching signatures. Another 579 absentee signatures were rejected in Seminole County, 159 in Osceola County and 142 in Lake County.
A non-matching signature was by far the most common reason for absentee ballot rejection, say Central Florida election officials. The next most common: the failure to sign the ballot at all, which disqualified 672 more ballots in the four counties.