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Let’s talk about Mail Forwarding Services

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

What is a Mail Forwarding Service?

The United States Postal Service offers mail forwarding when residents are away from their main address for a certain period of time. Private mail forwarding services offer greater options, for a fee, from forwarding your mail to different addresses or scanning your mail to a virtual mailbox and allowing you to choose the items you want physically forwarded to you…wherever you are.

Why do people use Mail Forwarding Services?

There are a number of Florida visitors and residents who have non-traditional lifestyles of RV-ing or living on the water. And while they have found communities through clubs, marinas, and parks all across the country, establishing a “legal residence” to register to vote, obtain their driver’s license, and receive mail was a challenge. The answer? Mail Forwarding Services! For a fee, these non-residents were finally able to declare one location as their place of legal residence…even though they didn’t actually live there.

To get a better understanding of how Mail Forwarding Services work, watch as some happy customers explain the "benefits" of their Florida-based mail forwarding service:

Why are Mail Forwarding Services an issue?

Florida Statutes are very clear as to providing an address of legal residence on voting registrations, and that voters must be Florida residents who live in the counties in which they’re registered. Of equal importance is that vote-by-mail ballots cannot be forwarded. The structure of some Mail Forwarding Services violates both requirements.

According to Forbes, “mail forwarding is a useful option for people or businesses who want to receive mail at a different address than is publicly available. By using a virtual address to protect your security, you can view and receive mail without sharing your personal address.” So, someone who has registered at an RV park in Sumter County, Florida might be staying at a park in Ohio, and their Mail Forwarding Service based in Texas receives their Florida vote-by-mail ballot and forwards it to their listed Ohio address.

What do some Florida Supervisors of Elections say about forwarding Vote-By-Mail Ballots?

  • Remember, the U.S. Post Office will not forward vote-by-mail ballot to a different address. If you want your vote-by-mail ballot sent to an address that's different from the one on file with the Elections Department, you must send a signed written request. Miami-Dade County VBM FAQ

  • FAQ: Will my mail ballot be forwarded if I have moved since requesting a ballot? No. BALLOTS ARE NOT FORWARDABLE - Be sure to provide your current mailing address to ensure delivery. Pinellas County VBM FAQ

  • Important: Vote-by-mail ballots cannot be forwarded so be sure we have your correct mailing address on file. Even if the post office forwards your mail to your summer address, they will not forward vote-by-mail ballots. Sarasota County VBM FAQ

Mail Forwarding Service Advisory Opinion

In a June 19, 2018 Advisory Opinion Maria Matthews, the Director of the Florida Division of Elections, responded to an inquiry from the Clay County Supervisor of Elections, Chris Chambless, regarding the legality of Mail Forwarding Services customers registering to vote in his county:

“Customers of a private mail forwarding service who attempt to establish legal residency in a county by filing a Declaration of Domicile that fails to list a residential address or that lists a nonresidential address at which they do not reside and who have no other meaningful contact with the county other than using the services of this enterprise in the county to receive mail, secure a Florida driver license or Florida identification card, and obtain a license plate, or hull number for a boat, without having a past or present physical presence and intent to establish permanent residency in the county is not sufficient to establish residency for voter registration purposes and are most likely not legal residents of the county.”

Chambless initially seemed to agree with that decision, as only a couple weeks later, in an interview with Clay Today Online:

“What we were seeing is that people would become customers of St Brendan’s Isle electronically, then file a Declaration of Domicile electronically, then come here and register a boat or vehicle and then register to vote,” Chambless said."

Where is the residency there? How does that tie you to the community?” (Chambless, Clay County SOE)

Some might argue that these Mail Forwarding Service customers would not be allowed to vote in a municipal election, but that they should be able to vote for state and federal candidates. But who's checking? Who's ensuring that these voters are sent ballots that exclude municipal elections? Do you want people who have no ties to your community voting for your school board members, your commissioners, your mayor?

Let's Talk About How This All Changed

St. Brendan’s Isle, Green Cove Springs, FL

From their website: If you would ever like to visit our offices and tour our mail forwarding facility, we are located just outside of Jacksonville, Florida in the city of Green Cove Springs. For many of our Clients, Florida is an ideal state to establish your residency and to register their vehicles. Florida has no state income tax and Tag Registration is very economical. As part of our mail forwarding services we can provide you with the necessary forms and instructions for these important administrative matters and answer any questions you may have. In addition we can provide assistance with these other administrative matters:

Florida Voters Registration

• Florida Drivers License

• Florida Boat Registration

• US Coast Guard Documentation Renewal

Technomadia Article Clay County MFS

Clay County’s St. Brendan’s Isle, Response to June, 2018 Advisory

8/27/2018 – Voter Rights Update

Since our last post, our legal team has continued to work with attorneys for Florida’s Supervisors of Elections and the State’s Division of Elections to resolve issues stemming from the Division of Election’s Advisory Opinion from earlier this year affecting some of our clients. We are slowly but surely making progress toward that goal. Because this is an election year however, we are having to deal with a number of recently filed and unrelated elections lawsuits from around the State that are slowing this process down. We all know that government doesn’t move quickly under the best of circumstances, and these other lawsuits certainly aren’t helping. With that said, we think we are moving closer to an ultimate resolution that will protect everyone’s ongoing ability to vote in Florida elections. We appreciate your patience and your continuing support in our efforts.

10/19/2018 – Voter Rights Update

We are pleased to announce that St. Brendan’s Isle clients who elect to register to vote in Clay County are now doing so with our guidance. We want to thank the local officials who have worked with us on this matter, and to all of you who have expressed your support over the past few months.

Technomadia update: We asked SBI what this means for existing voters and keeping their registration. As far as the 2018 mid-term elections – absentee ballots have already been sent, so we’re all good for this year. SBI’s response to us was: “What may or may not occur beyond that is pure speculation. What we do know is that if things change St Brendan’s Isle will always be there to protect the voting rights of our Clients.”

We also had the opportunity to visit with Scott and team at SBI in person in late October – and while they’ve asked us not to publish their solution at this time, we feel well assured at this point in their statements. Just call and ask them, and they’ll be happy to share the new process.

12/4/2018 – All SBI Voting Customers To Use Yacht Club Address (Technomadia Words)

If you’re a fellow St. Brendan’s Isle full timer, registered to vote via their service (using 1 Clay County) – you probably just got an e-mail from them.

SBI and the Supervisor of Elections have reached an agreement to officially move over all SBI voters to the new Club Isle address at the Yacht/RV park they have partnered with.

This will protect our rights to vote under the binding legal opinion sought earlier this year by the county Supervisor of Elections.

Your new voting address is:

1063 Bulkhead Road, Unit/Slip/Site # xxxxx (this is your box number)

Green Cove Springs, FL 32043

You can update your registration at:…/Registration/Eligibility

You do NOT update your mailing address, driver’s license, taxes, registration or anything else. This is just replacing your old 1 Clay County VOTING address.

We just spoke with SBI – they & the supervisor settled on March 1 as the deadline to this done before the process to remove registered voters begins (and even then, there will be advanced notification and opportunity to comply).

Even if you get removed, you can still register before the next election using the new address.

At present time, we are feeling good about this solution that SBI has worked so hard to find for us all. We love that this solution is completely transparent with the Supervisor of Elections, and at his advisement.

We truly appreciate them.

Response from the Escapees RV Club: 7-19-2018

Public Statement & Advisory Sent to FL Mail Service Customers:

The issue was whether a person may use a commercial mail forwarding service address to register to vote. The advisory opinion concludes that if the mail forwarding service does not provide the capacity for its members to reside at the mail forwarding service, then the mail forwarding service address is not valid for purposes of voter registration.

Please know, we do not agree with some of the conclusions reached in this advisory opinion. Moreover, this advisory opinion appears to address mail forwarding services with processes and facilities that differ from our own-our services are offered through Sumter Oaks RV Park [Florida], a campground.

And, it is important to note, Florida’s Department of State expressly left the interpretation of the advisory opinion to the individual counties. Because our services are offered in Sumter County, not Clay County which sought the advisory opinion, we made contact with the elections supervisor in Sumter County for comment. At this point in time, it appears that you are not affected by the conclusions drawn in the advisory opinion. However, we will continue to monitor this issue across the state and keep you updated if anything changes.

The Escapees RV Club advertises their Mail Forwarding Services (MFS) on their website.

The Escapees RV Club’s FAQ section describes how customers can use their MFS for driver’s licenses and voting:

“Yes, you can use your Escapees Mail Service address in Texas, Florida or South Dakota as your residence address for driver’s licensing, vehicle titles, voter registration and other legal purposes. Please see our information on domicile for more details.”

Applicable Florida Statutes

FS 98.045 Administration of voter registration

98.045(1) Eligibility of applicant.—The supervisor must ensure that any eligible applicant for voter registration is registered to vote and that each application for voter registration is processed in accordance with law. The supervisor shall determine whether a voter registration applicant is ineligible based on any of the following:

(h) The applicant has provided an address of legal residence that is not his or her legal residence.

FS 101.6103 Mail ballot election procedure

101.6103 Ballots shall be addressed to each elector at the address appearing in the registration records and placed in an envelope which is prominently marked “Do Not Forward.”

101.6103(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (7), the supervisor of elections shall mail all official ballots with a secrecy envelope, a return mailing envelope, and instructions sufficient to describe the voting process to each elector entitled to vote in the election not sooner than the 20th day before the election and not later than the 10th day before the date of the election. All such ballots shall be mailed by first-class mail. Ballots shall be addressed to each elector at the address appearing in the registration records and placed in an envelope which is prominently marked “Do Not Forward.”

FS 101.62 Vote-by-mail ballots shall be non-forwardable

101.62(4)(c) The supervisor shall provide a vote-by-mail ballot to each elector by whom a request for that ballot has been made by one of the following means:

1. By nonforwardable, return-if-undeliverable mail to the elector’s current mailing address on file with the supervisor or any other address the elector specifies in the request.

FS 104.011 False swearing; willfully submitting false voter registration information

104.011(1) A person who willfully swears or affirms falsely to any oath or affirmation, or willfully procures another person to swear or affirm falsely to an oath or affirmation, in connection with or arising out of voting or elections commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(2) A person who willfully submits any false voter registration information commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

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