As the popularity of mailed-in ballots increases in Florida, voters seem to be getting a better handle on how to make them pass muster once they reach supervisors of elections offices, according to preliminary data compiled by a University of Florida professor.
In the 2012 and 2016 general elections, 1 percent of Florida's vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots were rejected, almost all for signatures that are missing or do not match those kept in elections records.
So far, that rejection rate statewide is down to 0.77 percent, according to figures compiled by Dr. Daniel Smith, chair of UF political science department.
That's just about 20,300 rejected ballots.
In Miami-Dade, where 1.9 percent of 2016 VBMs were rejected, the rate so far this year is only 1 percent, or about 2,800 ballots. Broward's rate has remained relatively stable: 1.4 percent in 2012 and 2016; 1.2 percent this year.
The greatest improvements, so far, are being found in younger voters, ages 18-21, who Smith found have cut their rejection rate in half -- from around 4 percent to nearly 2 percent. It is still four times higher than the rate for voters 65 and over.
Disparities between white voters and minorities also remain, but have narrowed. White voters had a 0.6 percent VBM rejection rate so far this year, about half the rate for black and Hispanic voters.
In a study he led for ACLU-Florida, previously reported on here by the NBC 6 Investigators, Smith found minority and young voters were being rejected at significant rates, compared to white voters.
Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign is due in federal court in Tallahassee Wednesday, arguing that study supports its claim that a judge should order the counties to accept VBM ballots where they have already decided the signatures do not match those in their records.
Canvassing boards are not expert handwriting analysts, their suit notes.
The state countered that accepting rejected ballots would be a violation of election law and that the judge does not have the power to re-write the statute, only to interpret it.
But Nelson's camp claims it is unconstitutional to deny equal protection for voters and that the disparities faced by minorities and the young constitute a violation of their civil rights.
Here are numbers compiled by Smith in the ACLU-Florida report and what he has released so far about the 2018 election.
|SHARE OF MAILED BALLOTS REJECTED|
|NUMBER OF MAILED BALLOTS REJECTED|