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Elections Supervisors Expecting Flood Of Mail Ballots For Florida Primary

A blue medical mask in on top of a mail in ballot.
Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash
Elections supervisors expect more people to vote by mail this year because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Florida's statewide primary election is less than three weeks away. More primary voters than ever are voting by mail as a result of a high-profile outreach effort prompted by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The surge in mail ballots is building. Through Tuesday, more than 850,000 people had returned their mail ballots, and more than three million more mail ballots are in people's homes. All told, that represents nearly one-third of the 13 million registered voters in the state. Pete Antonacci is supervisor of elections in Broward County.

"They're coming in at about three to four thousand a day, so pretty brisk pace of vote by mail ballots," Antonacci said.

Antonacci told WIOD's Brian Mudd that because of the shift to voting by mail, his decision to schedule only eight days of early voting in the primary -- instead of the maximum 14 days -- makes even more sense.

"Early voting is not going to be as popular," he said. "In person voting is not going to be as popular this cycle because of the virus. It's going to be an inverted election from past experience. More people voting by mail, diminished amount of in person voting."

Voters need to keep in mind that a vote by mail ballot must be received at your local elections office by the time the polls close, or else it won't count. That deadline is 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18th. Hillsborough County supervisor of elections Craig Latimer emphasizes that deadline on his web site.

"It's heartbreaking to get calls on election day from someone that intended to come out and vote on election day and then was unable to," Latimer said. "That won't happen if you request a vote by mail ballot. We'll mail you your ballot yo your home. Once you voted you can either mail it back or drop it off in person."

Counties such as Hillsborough and Broward are already tabulating the vote by mail ballots that have arrived, so that they can keep up with the flow of ballots. Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that allows counties to canvass mail ballots as soon as they perform a public test of their voting equipment that's required by law.

Voting by mail remains popular with Floridians despite President Trump's repeated tweets that it encourages fraud -- statements debunked as untrue by voting experts. But so far in this election, voting by mail is much more popular with Democrats than Republicans. Through Tuesday, 400,000 Democrats had voted by mail, compared to 319,000 Republicans.

Steve Bousquet has covered state government and politics for three decades at the Sun Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. He was the Times' Tallahassee bureau chief from 2005 to 2018 and has also covered city and county politics in Broward County. He has a master's degree in U.S. history from Florida State.