To the editor:
Lee County voters are indeed fortunate to have an elections system that counts every vote! I was privileged this past week to observe the canvassing board during its review of the election system. The canvassing board, by law, is composed of the elections supervisor, a county commissioner, and a judge.
The day began with a tour of the elections warehouse. It is simply amazing to observe all the equipment and supplies necessary to conduct an election for almost 130 precincts! Every minute detail is taken care of, including a specific layout of each precinct so that space is provided to accommodate voting machines, wheelchairs, etc. Every precinct has its own storage bin that contains everything it needs to conduct an election.
I was able to observe sample ballots being placed in the voting machines. Every vote was checked, re-checked, and validated. Totals must always agree. Initials of the canvassing board are required at each step; these are kept in case there is a problem on election day, then stored for a minimum of 22 months as required by law.
The really difficult job of the canvassing board is to determine the validity of mail-in ballots.
When a ballot is returned and the Voter's Certificate on the return envelope is not signed, the law requires that the voter is informed that the ballot was not signed and he/she is provided instructions on how to "cure" the error. An affidavit must be completed, signed, and returned with a copy of a valid ID and signature on file before 5 p.m. on the day prior to the election. If nothing happens and the ballot remains unsigned up to the deadline, it is rejected by the canvassing board.
When a mail-in ballot is received, the signature on the envelope is checked with the signature on file on the Voter's Registration record. If this signature does not appear to be the same, a copy of the registration form signature is made and both this copy and the envelope are clipped together for review by the canvassing board. These questionable signatures are reviewed by the canvassing board. If at least two members agree there is enough similarity, the ballot is accepted. .
Ballots rejected by the canvassing board are never opened and are filed with all other documents from the election and stored for 22 months.
After the election, any voter whose mail ballot was rejected during the canvassing process will receive a letter stating the reason for the rejection. If it was for a mismatched signature, the application on the signature is also included.
Voters who choose to cast their ballots by mail are reminded that they MUST sign the outside of the envelope as instructed. And that signature must match the signature on file. Each envelope has a barcode that identifies the individual's ballot, so make sure the ballot goes in the appropriate envelope.
Voters whose signature changes-either over the years or for some temporary reason-should complete a new application form so that the signatures coincide! This is also true if the voter plans to vote early or on election day.
Lee County is fortunate to have an elections staff and volunteers dedicated to making sure that everything in an election is handled legally and efficiently. The public is invited to observe the election process and the work of the canvassing board, which takes place prior to every election (primary and general). You will also be able to see why elections are so costly.
Jody Van Cooney