Floridians in Israel can still vote?


JERUSALEM, Nov. 13 (JTA) – A lawyer here claims that Floridians who live in Israel may be able to make a difference in the U.S. presidential election by voting now.

With the margin in the decisive Florida race being referred to in terms of hundreds, absentee ballots cast by registered voters in the state could have a say in who will be the next U.S. president.

Under Florida law, absentee ballots can be counted up to 10 days after Nov. 7 if they are postmarked on or before Election Day.

But Jerusalem lawyer David Baskin asserts that there may be a loophole in the law that would make it possible for absentee voters who already have ballots to vote now. He cites a slip included with the absentee ballot informing voters of the right to submit a vote after the election if, for some reason, the ballot could not be postmarked on Election Day.

The slip reads, “Please make every effort to see that your ballot is postmarked. If, however, you do not have a method to show a postmark, and your ballot is received by the November 17th deadline, it will be counted if otherwise valid.”

“I see this as a very wide statement,” Baskin said. “People like myself got the ballot and held it to the last day. But other people who took their ballots and probably voted, punched it out, put it aside and lost it or never sent it in. Or people who voted had a flu on Election Day and couldn’t send it in.

“Therefore,” he continued, “if the ballot were to arrive by the 17th and didn’t have a postmark, they could still” submit it.

Baskin said he received several inquiries from people asking about the ability to vote. But other observers questioned such a probability.

But Byrna Franklin, chairwoman of Democrats Abroad in Israel, said that while she is no expert on election processes, “it’s late in the game” and “to win by a loophole would degrade the campaign.”

Jerusalem resident Roz Soltz, a former Floridian, knew the U.S. presidential race was tight when she cast her absentee ballot this year – but never imagined what an impact her vote would have.

“We’re delighted that every vote is going to count. I think this has brought back to the American public how important it is,” said Soltz, who immigrated with her husband four and a half years ago.

Whether the Israel absentee vote will specifically sway the election is not clear. Figures on the number of former Florida residents living in Israel are sketchy. The Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel estimated that about 4,000 registered Florida voters are in Israel. There are no figures on how many voted.

Eliyahu Weinstein, chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel, speculated that the Israel absentee ballots are a small portion of the total absentees for Florida, and “might have a marginal influence” in the vote outcome.

But Franklin said the absentee ballots “could make the election reflect the will of the people.”

Recommended from JTA