You might have heard discussions about voter identification laws, but what does that really mean for you? What do you need to have with you when you go to the polls?
Keep reading to answer common questions about voter identification requirements in Pinellas County so you’re prepared once Election Day comes around.
What Are Voter Identification Laws and Why Do They Matter?
Most states require voters to provide some form of official identification to verify their identity when they vote. Each state has laws regarding how they verify that a voter is indeed who they claim to be.
Proponents of strict voter identification laws argue that this prevents fraud, while opponents point out that fraud is rare and strict ID laws suppress people from voting. Because citizens need to follow their region’s voter ID laws, it is important for voters to be aware of their particular state’s requirements.
The Florida Department of State oversees the Division of Elections, which implements voter identification procedures according to Florida law. Each county then has a canvassing board and a Supervisor of Elections that oversee certifying election results and ensuring voter identification laws are enforced.
Typically, the Pinellas County canvassing board is made up of a county judge (who is appointed by the chief judge), the chair of the board of county commissioners and the Supervisor of Elections.
What Identification Is Required to Vote in Pinellas County?
Registered voters in Pinellas County must abide by Florida’s voter identification laws, which require that voters provide photo and signature identification when they vote in person.
Florida considers the following acceptable forms of photo ID:
- Florida driver’s license
- Florida ID card issued by the Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- U.S. passport
- Debit or credit card
- Military identification
- Student identification
- Retirement center identification
- Neighborhood association ID
- Public assistance identification
- A license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm
- Veteran health identification card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
- Employee identification card issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the Federal Government, the state, a county, or a municipality.
If the photo ID does not have a signature on it, then a second ID with a signature can be used in addition to the photo ID. For example, a voter could use a student ID for their photo ID and then show a debit card for their signature.
I Don’t Have Identification. Am I Still Allowed to Vote?
If a registered voter does not have valid identification with them when they arrive to the polls, they can vote a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are identical to regular ballots, but put into an envelope that the voter will sign. The provisional ballot cannot be counted until the canvassing board has verified that the signature on the ballot matches the voter’s signature on file.
If you receive a provisional ballot, you can check its status at VotePinellas.com. You have the right to provide written evidence supporting your voting eligibility. Evidence must be provided to the Supervisor of Elections by 5 p.m. on the Thursday after Election Day.
If you receive instructions from the poll workers after casting your provisional ballot, be sure to follow them closely and submit any additional required documents by 5 p.m. on the Thursday after Election Day.
Is Voter Identification Required for Mail-in Ballots?
If you use a mail-in ballot (previously known as an absentee ballot), your signature will act as your identification. You will sign the ballot envelope and your signature will be checked to make sure it matches the signature that is on file for you.
Voting Tip: Take a photo on your phone of your signature when registering or updating your registration, so that you remember how you signed.
If you have received a mail ballot, but you decide to vote in person, just take your mail ballot (the entire kit) with you to your polling place. The mail ballot will be marked “cancelled,” and you will be given an in-person ballot to vote instead. If you do not take your mail ballot with you to the polls, you may have to vote a provisional ballot.
Is the Voter Information Card I Received Considered Proper Voter Identification?
No. The Voter Information Card is for informational purposes only and does not count as a valid ID. You’re also not required to show it in order to vote.
Does Voter Registration Expire?
Voters can become “inactive” if they do not vote in two consecutive federal elections. You can still vote if you are “inactive”! In fact, voting is one of the easiest ways to become “active” again. You can also become active again by requesting a mail ballot or contacting the Supervisor of Elections. But if you remain “inactive” for too long, the Supervisor of Elections will try to contact you to make sure you are still here, and if they don’t hear back from you, you may be removed from the rolls.
The Supervisor of Elections conducts a regular process to keep the voting rolls up-to-date, for example to remove people who have moved out of Florida or who have passed away.
Be sure to double check your voter registration status about 2 months before every election to make sure that you are still on the rolls and all of your information is up to date. If you have accidentally been removed from the rolls, you may need to re-register before the 29-day voter registration deadline.
Confused? Have a Special Situation? We’re Here to Help!
The goal of the League of Women Voters is to help as many people as possible participate in the democratic process. We are here to help you vote! If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
You can also contact the office of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections for assistance.
These small steps can prepare you to successfully vote this year! With the right information, you can arrive at the polls prepared.
Kimberly Walker, content writer for all things educational, didn’t figure out what she wanted-to-be-when-she-grew-up until she was forty, when she unearthed her two greatest passions— writing in a down-to-earth style that stretches her readers’ thinking and advocacy for the marginalized. She now can most often be found being a grown-up living out her dream in one of downtown St. Pete’s cafés, cozied up with her laptop and a local brew coffee with light cream.
Updated by Amy Keith, Voter Services Co-Chair for Election and Voter Protection