Student Voting Guide | Florida

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Florida. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

You must be 18 to vote in Florida but can preregister once you are 16 to vote in elections occurring on or after your 18th birthday.[1] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials.

You can register to vote in person at a DMV,[2] county elections office, or by mail (you can also fill out an application online and print it out). Florida’s registration deadline is 29 days before the election (October 6, 2014 for the 2014 midterm election),[3] and your mail-in application must be postmarked by the 29th day before an election.[4]

Special Rules for Un-Verified Registrants. When you register to vote in Florida, the state has to verify either your Florida driver’s license or ID card number or the last four digits of your Social Security number before they will add your name to the voter rolls.[5]  If they cannot verify your number by matching it with the driver’s license or Social Security database, they will send you notice that you need to complete your registration by showing your driver’s license or Social Security card to the county Supervisor of Elections (or sending a photocopy by mail, fax, or e-mail).[6]  If you provide your license or card (or a copy) before Election Day, you will be registered and allowed to vote a regular ballot.[7]  If you have not done so by Election Day, you will still be eligible to vote a provisional ballot, but will have to present your card to the supervisor (or send in a copy) by 5:00 p.m. on the second day after the election for the ballot to be counted.[8]

Primary rules. Florida is a closed primary state,[9] and you must declare a party affiliation by the 29-day deadline in order to vote in that party’s primary.[10]

Residency

At School. If you move to a school address in Florida, you can establish residency in Florida if you have a present intention to remain at your Florida school address for the time being, and intend to make it your principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional. [11] Under Florida law, you must be a “legal resident” of the state and election district in which you register.[12] Florida courts have held that the best proof of a voter’s residency is “where he says it is.”[13] As long as you register to vote using a legal Florida address, no further proof of residency should be required.[14]

At Home. Florida allows students to keep their Florida voting residency even if they move out of the county, state, or country to attend school. The only way you might lose this residency is by establishing residency in a new state,[15] for example by registering to vote there. So long as you consider your parents’ address as your permanent residence and intend to return after graduation, you should be able to continue to register to vote from that Florida address.[16] If you establish residency in another state and then move back to Florida with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to vote in Florida.

Change of Address.  If you have moved within the same county, you will be able to change your address by signing an affirmation of the address change at the polls.[17] However, if you move to a different county within Florida, you must notify the Supervisor of Elections in your new county of your new address – in person, or by email or phone – before you vote.[18] If you do not, you will be able to vote a provisional ballot, which will be counted so long as the canvassing board determines that you are registered, that you did not vote twice in the same election, and that you are not committing voter fraud.[19] You may always re-register at your new address at any time.[20]

Challenges to Residency. The Supervisor of Elections for your county has the discretion to reject your application initially if he or she has reason to believe that you are not eligible to vote (for reasons including lack of residency). If the Supervisor of Elections suspects you are not eligible to vote, he or she will send you notice of your potential ineligibility within seven (7) days after receiving information about your potential ineligibility.[21] If you do not respond to that notice within thirty (30) days, your registration will be cancelled.[22] If you do respond, you may request a hearing to determine your eligibility to vote.[23] If the supervisor decides you are ineligible after the hearing, you can appeal that decision to court.[24]  Finally, your right to vote can be challenged up to thirty (30) days before an election by another registered voter; if you are challenged in this way, you can either provide proof of address or update your address before Election Day to cast a full ballot; otherwise, you may vote a provisional ballot at the polls.[25]

At the polls, your right to vote can be challenged on the basis of your residency by another voter or by a partisan challenger.[26] The challenge must be made in writing. Once the challenge is made, you will have to vote via provisional ballot.[27] The burden is on the challenger to prove that you are not eligible.[28] The county canvassing board will decide whether to count your ballot. Your vote will be counted unless the board finds that you are not a resident of the county in which you voted. You can present written evidence of your eligibility to the supervisor by 5:00 p.m. on the second day after the election (although you are not required to).[29]

Identification

All Florida voters will be asked to show a current photo ID that includes a signature at the polls.[30] Valid photo ID includes: a Florida drivers’ license, a Florida ID, a U.S. passport, a debit or credit card, military ID, student ID, retirement center ID, neighborhood association ID, or public assistance ID.[31] If your photo ID does not include a signature, you should bring another form of ID that includes your signature; this ID does not have to match the legal residence on your other photo ID.[32]

If you cannot show ID that you are required to show, you will have to vote a provisional ballot,[33] which will be counted if you are otherwise eligible.[34]

Absentee Voting

Florida is a no-fault absentee state – you do not need an excuse to vote absentee.[35] To request an absentee ballot by mail, your application must be received by your county’s Supervisor of Elections by 5 p.m. on the sixth day before the election.[36] You can also apply in person through Election Day.[37] You can apply over the phone or in writing, and some county supervisors offer online request forms.[38] Your completed absentee ballot must be received by the Supervisor of Elections by 7 p.m. on Election Day.[39]

Early Voting

As a convenience to voters, all Florida counties offer early voting beginning on the 10th day and ending on the 3nd day before Election Day, but counties may extend early voting up to the 15th day before the election, and hold early voting on the 2nd day before the election.[40] Contact your local election official for the specific schedule and hours of early voting in your county.

Last Updated August 15, 2014


[1] Fla. Stat. Ann. §97.041.  

[2] Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 97.053(1).

[3] Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 97.053(2) (voter must be registered by deadline), 97.055(1)(a) (29-day deadline).

[4] Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 97.053(4), 97.055(1)(a).

[5] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.053(6).

[6] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.053(6).

[7] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.053(6).

[8] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.053(6).

[9] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.021.

[10] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.055(1)(c).

[11] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[12] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.041.

[13] Walker v. Harris, 398 So.2d 955, 958 (Fla. 4th Dist. Ct. App. 1981) (quoting Ogden v. Ogden, 33 So.2d 870, 873 (Fla. 1947)).

[14] Election Myths vs Facts, Fla. Div. of Elections, available at http://election.dos.state.fl.us/mythsFacts.shtml (last visited August 10, 2014).

[15] Bloomfield v. St. Petersburg Beach, 82 So.2d 364, 369 (Fla. 1955) (“if a man actually becomes a bona fide resident of this state and intends to remain permanently a citizen of the state, mere absence with the specific clear-cut bona fide intention of returning will not destroy the residence actually theretofore established.”).

[16] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.041; Walker v. Harris, 398 So.2d 955, 958 (Fla. 4th Dist. Ct. App. 1981).

[17] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.045(2)(a).

[18] Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 101.045(2)(b) (electors who have moved from outside county must vote a provisional ballot); § 97.1031(1)(b) (change of address may be made over the phone, as well as resubmitting a voter registration application). 

[19] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.048(2)(a).

[20] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 97.055(1)(b).

[21] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 98.075(7).

[22] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 98.075(7).

[23] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 98.075(7).

[24] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 98.0755.

[25] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.111(1)(c).

[26] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.111(1)(a).

[27] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.048.

[28] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.048(2)(a). 

[29] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.048(1).

[30] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.043(1).

[31] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.043(1).

[32] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.043(1).

[33] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.043(2).

[34] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.048(2).

[35] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.62(1)(a); Absentee Voting, Fla. Div. of Elections, available at http://election.dos.state.fl.us/voting/absentee.shtml (last visited August 14, 2014) (“A person does not have to be absent from his or her county of residence or have another reason to vote absentee.”).

[36] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.62(2).

[37] Absentee Voting, Fla. Div. of Elections, available at http://election.dos.state.fl.us/voting/absentee.shtml (last visited August 14, 2014) (“A request to receive an absentee ballot by mail must be received by the Supervisor of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on the 6th day before the election. Otherwise, you can obtain an absentee ballot up until and including Election Day.”).

[38] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.62(1).

[39] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.67(2).

[40] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 101.657(1)(d).