A new system will help Alachua County voters by sending election reminders and tracking their vote-by-mail ballots from beginning to end.
BallotTrax is a national company that provides ballot tracking services to several states including Georgia, Nevada and California. Alachua County along with Columbia and Levy counties are three of the 19 Florida counties that offer the option.
“We can remind voters about the upcoming elections. We can notify voters that their vote by mail ballot has been sent to them, that the request has been received by us, [and] that we’ve received their ballot in the mail,” said Aaron Klein, the director of communications and outreach for the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office. “So it’s just a great additional resource if voters want to stay in touch with us for the election.”
According to BallotTrax, the system uses a bar code that keeps up with the ballot envelope throughout the postal system and sends voters notifications about whether their ballots have arrived and been processed. BallotTrax allows citizens to get text, email and/or voice alerts as the ballot is mailed and processed.
Alachua County’s nearly 180,000 voters can sign up for the service at https://votealachua.ballottrax.net/. While the approximately 30,000 voters in Levy County can sign up for BallotTrax notifications at https://votelevy.ballottrax.net/ and the almost 44,000 voters in Columbia County can sign up at https://votecolumbia.ballottrax.net/.
People who have regularly voted by mail may need to check their registration and the status of their vote-by-mail request with the Supervisor of Elections office prior to the August election.
The state of Florida passed Senate Bill 90 in 2021, which made significant changes to the laws governing vote-by-mail. The provisions of SB 90 were in effect for any elections in the later part of 2021, but if citizens haven’t voted since 2020, they may need to check their registration information and signature.
Among other things, SB 90 requires that voters have their birthdates as well as their Florida drivers license number or state identification number or the last four digits of their social security on file with the Supervisors office. The information is kept on file to help verify voter identification when vote-by-mail requests are made.
According to the Alachua County elections website, the voters this provision may affect the most are those who registered more than 15 to 20 years ago, when that information was not collected as part of the registration process.
Another change that went into effect with SB 90 was that vote-by-mail requests expire more quickly.
Previously, under Florida law, a vote-by-mail request lasted for two general election cycles, but under the new provisions, the request only lasts through the next general election cycle, Klein said.
For someone who made a request in July of 2022, for example, that request is only good through Dec. 31, 2022.
“So we do recommend, due to the change in legislation, if you’re interested in doing vote-by-mail for multiple elections, make that request every odd-numbered year,” Klein said. “That way, you’ll get covered through the end of that general election – so about two years.”
Klein said if Alachua County voters go onto VoteAlachua.com and click MyRegistration, they can check if they have a standing request for a vote-by-mail ballot and when that standing request expires. Voters can also call the elections office (352-374-5252) to check their request status.
Voters also can use the website to file a request to vote-by-mail.
Anyone planning to vote or vote-by-mail in the Aug. 23 election should check their address, their party affiliation and even the signature on file with the Supervisor’s office. The address and party affiliation on file will be available on the new voter identification cards that are being mailed out or on the MyRegistration information online.
The signature on the registration form is also important because it’s the one the elections office will use to match the signature on the back of a vote-by-mail ballot. So if you sign credit card slips or package receipts one way and legal documents another way, make sure you are using the same signature on your registration form and your ballot.
“We really emphasize when you’re filling out that form to use your best signature and most reliable and consistent signature,” Klein said.
The deadline to register to vote or change party affiliation before the August primary and nonpartisan elections is July 25.
The deadline to file a vote-by-mail request before the August elections is Aug. 13 at 5 p.m. Unlike other states, you can simply request to vote-by-mail and are not required to provide any reason or justification for the request.