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Tampa Bay snowbird’s mail ballot disappears days before November election deadline

8 On Your Side

Only solution is expensive and complicated, 8 On Your Side finds

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you choose to vote by mail in Florida, the state allows you to track your ballot online to make sure there are no issues. If your ballot hasn’t been received by your local supervisor of elections, you can choose to vote in person.

But what if you’re thousands of miles away?

A Tampa Bay area couple turned to 8 On Your Side this week after one of their mail-in ballots disappeared. They’re currently out-of-state and, as of Friday night, have just four days to track down the missing ballot.

“We feel very strongly about this election and want to make sure that our ballots are indeed counted,” Donna Carlson said.

Donna and Jeffrey Carlson are self-proclaimed snowbirds. They’re Tampa Bay area residents who are currently out-of-state.

More than two weeks ago, they dropped their completed ballots at a post office in Rhode Island. Mrs. Carlson’s ballot quickly arrived in Florida.

But 17 days later, her husband’s mail ballot is still missing.

With the deadline to vote in the November election just a few days away, it’s too late for Mr. Carlson to receive and return a second ballot via regular mail.

“We both did the same thing,” Mrs. Carlson explained. “The ballot is not where it’s supposed to be and it matters.”

Mrs. Carlson says she’s not sure who to blame for the missing ballot.

“What we have been told is that there’s nothing he can do,” she said.

Florida law says if you’re overseas, your local supervisor of elections can fax or even email a ballot to you. You can then fax it back but cannot email it back.

However, this convenient option isn’t available if you’re in the states, like the Carlsons.

8 On Your Side researched the issue and contacted the governor’s office, the Florida Department of State and local supervisors of elections.

The good news is, we found a potential solution. The bad news? It’s complicated – and expensive.

Mr. Carlson can have a friend in Florida pick up a ballot for him.

First, he would have to fill out an online affidavit that allows another voter to pick up his mail ballot. He would then fax the affidavit to a friend in Florida.

The friend would then have to take the affidavit to Mr. Carlson’s local elections supervisor and pick up the mail ballot. At this point, the ballot would have to be shipped from Florida to Rhode Island via Priority Express Mail.

Mr. Carlson would then have to return the completed ballot and original affidavit to his local elections supervisor before the deadline.

Ballots need to be received by the supervisor of elections no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted, so the Carlsons must act quickly if they hope for this option to work.

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