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Sealed Absentee Ballot Return Envelopes Spark Concern From Leon County Voters

Ballot Envelope
Lynn Hatter
An absentee ballot return envelope from the Leon Co. Supervisor of Elections Office. Several hundred voters received envelopes that were sealed.

When Leon County voter Maria Simpler got her absentee ballot in the mail she noticed there was a problem: the return envelope was sealed. To Simpler, it felt suspicious, given President Donald Trump’s ongoing, yet unfounded references to absentee voting fraud.

Simpler is a naturalized U.S. Citizen from Colombia and has been voting for more than 10 years through vote-by-mail. This is the first problem she's encountered and the timing, she says, is problematic, given President Donald Trump’s criticism of absentee balloting. In an email to Pro Publica’s Electionland tip desk, she said: “After learning that the governor of Texas ordered counties to stop accepting hand-delivered absent ballots at more than one location, this is worrisome because it seems that there is some sort of conspiracy to reduce the number of votes by mail as much as possible.”

She requested someone take a look at the stuck envelope issue.

The email reached WFSU. Just a few days prior, I had also received a stuck envelope and ripped the barcode while trying to pry it open. So, I took it and my ballot to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office, where I picked up another envelope, finished filling out the ballot, signed the envelope with the ballot enclosed and stuck it in the return box right there on the counter.

“We’ve had a few hundred phone calls. Out of 80,000 [absentee ballots] that’s not horrible, but it’s certainly not insignificant, and I know there are people who didn’t call who likely had the problem," says Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley. He says the ballots may have been exposed to moisture in the processing facility or when the ballots were being delivered. The solution is to request another envelope by either calling the office or requesting a new one online:

“You can see when we received the request, when we mailed it out, and if that email out date is five days ago or more, there’s probably a problem with getting it to you, so you should probably call and request another ballot," says Earley.

That same website will also show whether your ballot has been returned and counted. Simpler says she has requested a replacement envelope and is waiting on it to arrive. If it’s not in her mailbox by Thursday, she plans on calling, because she’s not taking any chances.

Voters can track their ballot requests and returns at
LeonVotes.gov/yourvoterinfo. Requests for replacements can also be made through the site.