TAMPA, Fla. — Isabella Pelaez, 19, is a recent high school grad. She was student government president at Jefferson High School in Tampa. In 2020, she also registered to vote for the first time.
Pelaez does not have a driver’s license, so she used the last four digits of her social security number to fill out her application on registertovoteflorida.gov, printed it out and submitted it in-person.
“We got it in last minute, got it stamped on October 5. And we thought she would be able to go ahead and shortly order her mail ballot, so that we could turn ours in, you know, all together,” said Jeanne Pelaez.
More than three weeks later, her mom reached out to 10 Tampa Bay Vote Squad’s Courtney Robinson. Isabella still wasn’t in the system and could not request a vote-by-mail ballot.
“It's something that does make me nervous because there are things that are going on right now. And a lot of doubt is being put out there. So, you just want to be confident that your vote is going to count,” she said.
The chief communications officer for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office confirmed that her application was with the Florida Division of Elections to be verified. It finally cleared the system on Friday, and Isabella is officially a registered voter.
Supervisor Craig Latimer explained that it takes time to process applications without a driver’s license, but voters should be confident they will be in the system before Election Day and can vote right now.
“The solution is really easy for this. If you registered and you feel that you registered and did everything fine. Go. You go early vote right now and request a provisional ballot. It's a regular ballot, it just goes in a provisional envelope. Then when your registration comes through, it'll be recommended to the canvassing board to accept that provisional ballot is a regular ballot,” he said.
Latimer says in general elections it’s not unusual for unverified voters to be in this situation. He says his office, and others around the state, received a crush of applications.
“The voters should stay calm about this, quite frankly, if they know they registered within the deadline, and they want to go get a provisional ballot and vote it, do it,” he said.
Latimer says the only reason a provisional ballot is rejected is if a voter clearly is not eligible to vote – they are not registered. He says once that voter is verified and registered, the canvassing board is made aware and the provisional ballot envelope is opened and the ballot counted.
“It's an insurance policy, quite plain and simple. You know, we're still quite a bit ways out from Election Day here. Not quite two weeks. So there's time for this process to still play out. And the registration becomes active and valid,” he said.
10 Tampa Bay asked the state division of elections how many applications it still needs to verify and if that will all happen before Election Day. The office said it was still working to answer our questions but “this information requires review.”
You can check the status of your registration right now online.
- Go to registertovoteflorida.gov
- Click on “Am I Already Registered?”
- Enter your First name, Last name, and date of birth and submit.
- If you are unable to do that online, you can always call your supervisor of elections or email them to check your status.
If you have something you want the Vote Squad to look into or any questions about the process, email: votesquad@10TampaBay.com.
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