A contested election. Accusations of election fraud. Widespread attention from the national media. No, it’s not in Florida, which has had its fair share of election hijinks over the decades. It’s in North Carolina, where a Congressional race might get a rare election do-over after allegations surfaced that a political operative helped the Republican candidate win by illegally collecting absentee, or vote-by-mail, ballots. The case highlights a notable difference between the two states, however: North Carolina has much tougher laws than Florida when it comes to voting by mail. Although Florida, like many states, has imposed strong voter ID laws for casting a ballot at a polling place, it’s done virtually nothing to stop fraud in the vote-by-mail process.
Most everywhere in Florida, it’s not illegal to collect ballots, like it is in North Carolina, where it’s a felony. Rather, it’s only illegal to pay someone to collect ballots in Florida, a loophole that allows campaign volunteers and even candidates themselves to go door to door collecting voters’ ballots.
(One exception is in Miami-Dade County, which has its own county code limiting anyone from possessing more than two ballots at a time.)
Another safeguard, requiring the signature of a witness, such a family member, on the vote by mail ballot envelope, is not required in Florida. In North Carolina, it is.
Florida used to have both protections, but Florida’s Republican-led Legislature stripped them away.