Castillo: Expand Voting By Mail; Keep City Voting Separate

Vice Mayor,
City of Pembroke Pines

Angelo Castillo


March 9th was municipal Election Day in many Broward cities including my home city, Pembroke Pines.  I was on the ballot this time around and am thankful to have been re-elected. 

However, we were all disappointed that so few voters countywide went out to vote. 

After the election results came in, I attended to the usual reporter phone calls asking me to recap my views of the election.  One of the questions involved the low voter turnout, presented to me under the premise of “voter apathy. 

There’s no question about it.  Voting has become a chore and possibly, although I’m rarely the cynical type, perhaps this is by design.

The average citizen voter has to go out of their way, on the way to work or coming home, to make it to the polls on a given day.  The average citizen has to vote between the hours of 7 am to 7 pm. They risk getting to work late or getting home late, just to vote in person.

It’s often difficult to park.  Sometimes there are long lines.  Sometimes there’s bad weather — all this just to cast a vote.

If voters are smart, they can request an absentee ballot from the Supervisor of Elections which comes to them in the mail.  Sadly, it then costs the voter over $1 in postage to send back. 

It’s not so much that voters are apathetic about voting.  They’re not.  They just feel insulted at the inconvenience of voting in the way that benefits bureaucrats instead of them.

They want voting to be easy and comfortable. 

 They want to vote when they have the time.

 They don’t want to feel rushed to vote during certain hours. 

 And if we would only make it easier for them to vote, they would in vastly larger numbers.


  At a time when we’re all looking to eliminate unnecessary costs in government, there’s no smarter way to save on purely avoidable election costs than to sell off all these machines and go to vote by mail. 

Oregon learned that lesson decades ago, and today the only way one can vote in Oregon is by mail.

Oregon’s elections have an 86% turnout. Compare those numbers to Broward’s dismal 3%, 5% or even 10% turnouts. 

Those turnout figures are reason enough to sit up and pay attention.

Billions of dollars could be saved that way over time while vastly increasing Florida voter turnout rates.  Oregon has worked out all the glitches in the system so we don’t have to recreate the wheel here.  All we have to do is take their experience off the shelf and put it to work right here in the Sunshine State.

Every voter gets the equivalent of an absentee ballot automatically two weeks before Election Day.  It comes to them with postage return paid in advance. After all, we are saving millions in election costs.

They get until x date to mail it before Election Day.  After that, they have to take their ballots to a public library or city hall drop off box in person by a time certain.  It gets picked up periodically during the day.

The Supervisor of Elections tabulates the ballots using computers as they are received.  Bingo.  You have results a few hours later. 

Perhaps the next wisest elections-related expense we should authorize is putting someone on a plane to Oregon with a yellow pad and a sharp pencil to figure out how they do it.

Let’s do what Oregon does here.

Florida could also have an 86% turnout in every election and save millions upon millions yearly in unnecessary elections related expenses.  This is why the League of Women Voters has endorsed vote by mail as the standard nationwide, and there is no more thoughtful, respected or reliable group to listen to when it comes to elections.


The City of Pembroke Pines, at my behest about two years ago, sent a unanimous resolution to the Governor and State Legislature volunteering to become the pilot city in a State sponsored effort to convert to vote by mail.  We have yet to receive even the courtesy of a reply.

I told you before.  I’m really not the cynical type.  But in this case, I am starting to feel a strong wave of cynicism.  It’s just possible that Tallahassee doesn’t want South Florida to vote in greater numbers.  It’s entirely possible that they want us inconvenienced to the extent we are when we vote. 

Perhaps they like spending millions more on elections than they should. I think that makes for very bad public policy.


I also don’t think it’s good policy to only have one Election Day, despite the growing movement among some to move all races to November. 

 That would be a terrible mistake, and with respect to my colleagues in other cities that have gone that route to save a few bucks on Election Day, I think that in the long run the impact of that decision will be even more costly.  Let me explain why.

First of all, we in cities run non-partisan.  Mixing partisan and non-partisan races is very bad policy.  The non-partisan municipal races, which have much more to do with the future of your day-to-day quality of life than any State or federal race, get drowned out in all the clamor of high priced, higher profile, partisan elections. 

Cities deserve one day of their own when local candidates can capture the full attention of their voters.  Going to vote by mail makes that possible, popular and much more affordable.

But there’s a second reason.  Look, when I call a State Rep or a Congressman on a constituent’s behalf, I want them to sit up and pay attention so that I can deliver for my constituent and community.  Those elected officials are much less likely to do so if they run on the same date that I do, because that means I’m less likely to run against them.  I want them thinking that disappointment to my constituents could bring consequences, like running against them. 

That’s just political reality folks.  And that is what makes cities strong, as they should be.  City officials are already low man on the political totem pole.  Taking away what little muscle city officials have left to secure results for our communities is just not smart politics or good governing.  Residents get less that way.  It is unwise policy.

For all these reasons, I encourage that we do the following: 

  • We need to go to a vote by mail system so that we can vastly improve voter turnout while saving millions in unnecessary elections costs. 
  • We should continue to spread out Election Days so that voter attention can be captured appropriately without swamping them, all in one day, with every important choice and questions they need to answer. 

Our democracy depends on voters voting, but only on voters voting when they are well and properly informed.  Let’s do these things and we’ll have a better Florida, vastly improved voter turnout, and millions in taxpayer dollars saved.

32 Responses to “Castillo: Expand Voting By Mail; Keep City Voting Separate”

  1. Pines Resident says:

    Great ideas, Angelo.
    You can start to put them into practice when you are a county commissioner later this year 🙂

  2. SAM FIELDS says:

    When individuals request an absentee ballot they are expecting it. Simply mailing the million Broward ballots out gets me nervous considering 10% of those registered are not there to receive the ballot–moved or dead.

    That’s a 100,000 possibilities of voter fraud.

    How do they deal with that in Oregon and what do studies show about the fraud issue?

  3. CuriousO says:

    To Angelo:

    Kudos to you for suggesting this. I believe your point about going out to Oregon to observe and learn is right on point, after doing some due diligence research back here.

    a question i pose is do they have their city elections on different days than their school board, county commission, constitutional officers (both local and state) and federal / presidential elections ie. pembroke pines vs. school board primary vs. presidential?

    it sounds like it is well worth looking into.

    the postage paid for by the state is huge and good!

    Your query, as posed, leads me to believe you are already predisposed against this; am i correct or just reading into the tone of your editorial/question?

  4. CuriousO says:

    to Buddy:

    your blog posting time is an hour behind yesterday, versus an hour ahead, which it should be. did you let ChASS Stevens handle this for you?

    FROM BUDDY: This is handled by a server located in California. I have nothing to do with it.

  5. CuriousO says:

    to Angelo:

    let me further clarify my query as it regards the different dates of elections for different types of office holders; are muncipalities via mail turning out 86% of voters in their municipal elections? THAT WOULD BE ASTOUNDING!

    and that is why i think it is important to know the dates/months of their elections for it would factor into the analysis.

  6. SAM FIELDS says:

    I am not predisposed to anything. It seems such an obvous question.

    Failure to ask this and dozens other questions is what gets us in trouble

    Angelo is a big boy I am sure he can handle it without being offended.

    As any public records search will tell you I was screaming bloody murder when the Commission bought the paperless system. If they had listened to me we would have saved millions and not embasrassed ourselves.

    If this idea can’t handle a few simple and obvous questions we should not even consider adopting it

  7. CuriousO says:

    to Sam Fields:

    I agree with you on the paperless, lack of a trail system, 100 percent.

    Do you think, on first blush, that Angelo is on to something that could be a great, needed overhaul?

  8. Another Idea says:

    While we are at it, Angelo, why don’t we have an appointed supervisor of elections?

    The job is too important not to give to an expert appointed by all nine members of the county commission.

  9. sol rojo says:

    Angelo, you are on the right path. The Legislature could immediately save millions by instituting this.

    It is a movement that is nationwide.

    Read more here:

  10. sol rojo says:

    The man to contact is J. D. Alexander, chairman of the Senate Elections Committee.

  11. NowHetero Rev.Ted Haggard says:

    Magifico Idea!!

    Let’s call a special election, to test this wonderful idea, and let’s do it for the State Attorney’s office, based on him? not doing his job, and base it on lackofballsFEASANCE. Let’s say, within 120 days!


  12. Garfish says:

    In general, I think that if our government wants to fix or improve something, whether it is at the city, county, school board, or state level, I think it is extremely wise to look at the way another government or organization is doing it successfully and try to emulate that as closely as possible. Whether it’s trying to improve election turnout or to improve the high school graduation rate. Look at who is doing it the best, see if the demographics line up fairly close and go for it. If you’re 50th, why just shoot to get past 49th? Model yourself after number 1 and aim for that mark.

  13. NowHetero Rev.Ted Haggard says:

    to Garfish:


  14. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Dear Sam:

    The Secretary of State of Oregon responds to the questions you raised, among others, regarding vote by mail in his article published in the Washington Post. Below is a link to that article. Enjoy it.

    Oregon holds multiple elections each year, not just one election day. Florida should follow the advice of League of Women Voters and send a team out to Oregon to study what they’ve done. We are well advised to study how vote by mail can be implemented here.

    There are simply too many logical advantages to dismiss not studying vote by mail. We owe it to ourselves to learn from Oregon’s great success in this area, because let’s face it — Florida has a lot to learn when it comes to elections management.



  15. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Dear Another Idea and Sol Rojo:

    Another Idea asks why there isn’t an appointed Supervisor of Elections. The answer is that our charter has never been changed to make that a requirement. When I served on the 2000 Charter Review Board, the subject was raised and defeated. I do not believe that the 2006 Charter Board took this issue up, they may have, but they too did not recommend a change in status of that official to the voters.

    Sol Rojo — The Governor and Legislature have a copy of my city’s resolution requesting that Pembroke Pines be allowed to serve as pilot city for a statewide vote by mail initiative. They don’t seem to be interested and the question one has to ask is — why not? Hmmm.



  16. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    To Garfish:

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Looking at someone else’s paper is only considered cheating in the second grade.

    After that, keeping an eye on what others are doing and figuring out ways to one-up them is considered management 101.

    There is no doubt about it.

    Florida should be doing a whoooole lot more benchmarking in other states in a wide variety of areas, not just voting methods. We should become the best practice in each and every area of government endeavor. If we did that, all of us would be much better off.



  17. I'm forsavings...but says:

    Let’s face it. If people know when the sales are, when baseball season starts, when the mini-lobster season starts and ends, then they know when election day is. Too many just choose not to participate. Mailing ballots to everyone MAY NOT be the answer.

    The Oregan experience, which was first tried when Sen. Packwood resigned and Cong. Ron Wyden won a special election, works well because Oregan has hundreds of very small towns scattered long distances from one another. Not exactly our Broward problem.

    People don’t vote in local elections for many reasons. Many candidates are lack-luster. The press, especially of late, does a poor job of covering local races let along doing back-ground checks or meaningful issue analysis or investigating shadowy groups who spend money mysteriously to influence the outcome. Some cities allow the type of political signs shortly before election day that serve to add excitement or at least recognition that election day is approaching. Some do not. Many don’t believe that their vote will have an impact. Some are just content with the status quo. And a hundred other reasons.

    In the just passed municipal elections less than 20% OF THE ABSENTEE BALLOTS THAT WERE SENT OUT were actually voted. That is not a ringing endorsement for shifting all voting to the mail and expecting hugh NEW voter turn out. It’s just not that simple.

    Much more to come.Current Florida law requires that there be “an in-person election” when there is a person(s) on the ballot. Mail-in elections are only allowed, but not required, for referendum, charter change questions and other similiar issues. Changing that state law may be more difficult than passing a casino compact.

    Speaking of the potentiality for fraud, as one blogger above pointed out, we are nowhere near ready to utilize the internet for widespread voting.

  18. How to up the turnout percentage says:

    It’s very simple: End the moter voter law.

    Tons of people register to vote who have no intention of ever doing so due to this law. It artifically depresses turnout rates.

  19. resident says:

    If all you really care about is to up the turnout rates, then just eliminate from the voter list anyone who doesn’t vote at least once every two years. Then those that vote will mostly be the super-voters

    However, I wouldn’t recommend this method.

    The mail ballot does have validity, and its day will come. It will increase turnout, though I am not sure how educated the voters will be. The question is: would you rather have more people vote that are less educated on the issues; or less people vote who are more educated on the issues?

    The less educated, the more sound bites will count.

    Actually with the constitutional amendments coming, if they pass, voting will be like taking an exam, and ballots will be extraordinarily long. That will really discourage voters.

  20. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Here are a few responses to the good discussion points above.

    Job one in any democracy is to get as many eligible voters as possible to case their vote. The very fabric of our democracy depends on that. The system we have now does not accomplish that goal. So the compelling need for reforming how we vote is well established. Oregon has vote by mail and they get huge turnout. Whether they have small cities or large, they each have a mailbox just like we do. We’d be smart to go to Oregon and learn from their experience. We could not do worse by changing over than what we have now.

    There are no grounds whatsoever, based in fact anyway, to conclude that there is greater risk of voter fraud associated with vote by mail than exists with absentee ballots. Vote by mail amounts to an absentee ballot to every voter and there is no significant voter integrity risk associated with absentee ballots. In Oregon they have figured out how to get greater turnout while upholding the integrity of the votes. So my suggestion is that instead of guessing what the downsides to vote by mail might be, that we go there and find out the real facts. From there, a fact based decision can follow a fact based analysis. Conjecture is never a good basis for quality decision making.

    Of this much I am sure. Vote by mail is many, many times less expensive than how we vote now and experience elsewhere shows that it produces huge voter turnout. Huge savings and huge voter turnout.

    That sounds too good to me to pass up exploring. Florida owes it to the taxpayer to conduct that exploration and if they don’t do it then they had better have a darn good reason why. I’ve not heard one yet.

    As to making sure that voters are properly informed under a vote by mail system, those that cast absentee ballots here seem to be very well informed. No one should question that voters in Oregon are somehow at an informational disadvantage when they vote either. If this system works well in Oregon, and produces the benefits stated above, then there should be no reason why it can’t work well in Florida, but that’s a presumption that is easy to test. Let’s send some folks to Oregon to figure it out — only let’s make sure they are independent, objective, and aren’t being sent on some fools errand to justify a viewpoint that they were determined to support even before they got on the airplane.



  21. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    PS — You can’t eliminate people that have not voted in past elections from voting in the future elections. That’s just not an angle that works under our laws, here citizens have an unqualified right to vote or not vote as they please.

    The issue is making it easier for them to cast a vote, so that more will be encouraged to do so at much less cost than we expend now.

  22. NowHetero Rev.Ted Haggard says:

    to Commissioner Angelo Castillo:

    do you know the percentage turnouts in municipal elections in Oregon? and are they on the same day as other election ie. Aug. party primaries and/or Presidential/Gubanatorial general elections?

  23. looking for Leaders! says:

    Dear Angelo:

    Would you consider running against the current Democratic 3 legged stool (he’s certainly not a Chair) Mitchell Ceasar?

    Can we mail him to Oregon as an absentee vote (for he sure is an absent party leader?!)

    Honestly, with local leaders like Mitch and national leaders like Pelosi, Rangel and Reid and an overmatched (if not well intentioned) President, one’s allegiance to the Democratic Party is really being tested.

  24. CuriousO says:

    Hey Buddy, the blog posting time is now 1:20 vs. 4:20 (west coast time), the real eastern time zone time. Do you have ChASS Stevens and/or Jack Shiffrel helping you?

    The item was posted at 4:22, which makes it 1:22 on the West Coast.
    But really, what’s the diff?

  25. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Rev. Ted:

    I suppose that the Oregon Department of State can best answer your question. The information I have is that Oregon averages 86% turnout in elections. Oregon holds multiple election days for different kinds of races like we do.


  26. sam fields says:

    I don’t have a feel one way or the other with vote by mail and I would like to see it initially tried on a small scale.

    I read the Wash Post article and it does not answer the basic question of proving who is actually casting the ballot.

    In Florida you cannot be removed from the rolls unless there has been at least two years without you voting. In practice it is much longer.

    The only way we could have an 87% turnout is with massive fraud. Ten percent of the names are bad which means that an honest 87% turnout would really be a 97% turnout!

    That ain’t never gonna happen no way, no how.

    What I want to know when a ballot shows up at an address that someone has moved from what prevents the current resident from filling it out and turning it in.

    In Broward we would be sending out 100,000 ballots to bad addresses.

    I would like some sense of it that 5% (5000) of these ballots will not be fraudulently cast.

    I await your answer.

  27. Buddy Nevins says:

    Mail balloting has been tried in Broward. It has been successful.

    A 1987 state law allows voting by mail for referendums.

    It was first tried in Broward in Cooper City in 1994. Around 13,000 voters were mailed ballots in a May referendum on $2 million worth of recreation bonds.

    There was a 36.3 percent turnout for an election not held at the usual time. Cooper City usually had 10-15 percent turnout at the time for March municipal races, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

    Voters rejected the bond issue.

    In May 1994, more than 50,000 voters in northeast Broward’s Hillsboro Inlet Improvement & Maintenance District received ballots by mail. They were voting whether to keep the district in existence.

    Again, the turnout was acceptable for a one-question election about an obscure district in May-June. About 35 percent of the voters mailed their ballots back.

    The district was kept alive by 90 percent of the voters.

    So the prediction of 80-plus percentage turnouts are good targets to shoot for, but unlikely to be reached.

    However, Angelo is right. Mail balloting has proven within Broward that it can increase turnout.

  28. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    Integrity in voting is of utmost concern. If there was massive fraud in mail balloting, then our current system of absentee ballots would be tainted with fraud. That is not the case. Expanding voting by mail to all citizens should not create anymore fraud.

    The suggestion is that we go to Oregon, who is the leader in this area, and learn from them. Integrity of the voting process needs to be among the questions raised. But there is no basis in fact that I have found to suggest that vote by mail can’t be done with integrity. There are many ways to ensure that, what we need to learn is how Oregon has become so successful at doing it and why.

    There is no basis to say that 87% turnout can only occur if there’s fraud involved. That’s pure conjecture. Let’s be guided by facts not opinion in this matter.


  29. CuriousO says:

    to Sam Fields aka “truly negative to great ideas”:

    how ever you wish to spin your viewpoint, in reading your posts, it is obvious you don’t like this idea, not much anway.

    Look at the example Buddy gave about Cooper City; look at the great stats Angelo C. provided!



  30. Lush Rimbaugh says:



  31. Sigmund Freud says:

    my analysis of this situation leads me to iterate zee following:

    One Angelo Castillo cares much more about generating higher vote counts in Broward than does one (or should i say half-a-one) Mitch Ceasar.

  32. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Dear Friends:

    Every once in a while, I write a piece on this blog about serious topics that I think will improve our community. I choose this forum out of respect for Buddy Nevins and the body of work he has given us for decades.

    Buddy knows that I’ve taken some cracks from him over the years. Yet I have respect for him personally and for his contribution. I believe that Broward respects him and that is what makes his blog a legitimate place to visit regarding Broward County politics and related matters.

    I’ve given you my thoughts on this important topic in good faith and I’ve responded to the legitimate questions posed as best I could. Now it is for you all to think about the issue and decide where you stand.

    If there are other legitimate questions, I’m happy to try and respond. Otherwise, as always, best wishes to each of you and signing off. Go Broward!!