By John Haughey | The Center Square
Florida, mocked for two decades because of the infamous hanging chad recount debacle in 2000, emerged from Tuesday’s election as a shiny star of ballot processing efficiency and vote counting transparency.
The state’s 67 county elections offices processed more than 11.1 million votes and had results available within hours of polls closing at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The early results allowed The Associated Press to declare President Donald Trump the winner at 12:35 a.m. Wednesday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said that call could have been made much sooner because the state had all the data to make it conclusive hours earlier.
“By 9, 9:30, this was in the bag,” he said. “Perhaps 2020 was the year we finally vanquished the ghost of Bush versus Gore.”
The governor said Florida has taken a lot of heat and been the butt of many jokes over the years for the 2000 election. After Tuesday, however, the Sunshine State has proven it has addressed its elections issues.
“As you see chaos unfolding in some of these other battleground states, the people are actually looking at Florida and asking the question, ’Why can’t these states be more like Florida?’ ” DeSantis said. “If the third most-populous state in the country can count 11 million votes, produce a result across the board, why can’t some of these other states that are much smaller?”
There are three reasons why the 2020 election went relatively smoothly in Florida compared with other states.
First, since the 2000 fiasco, all Florida counties did away with punch card ballots, mandated paper ballots with machine counting and dramatically expanded the availability of mail-in ballots and early voting.
Florida voters merely need to request a mail-in ballot and they receive one, no questions asked, and early voting is available for at least 10 days – and up to 20 days – in every county before Election Day.
About one-third of Florida’s electorate voted by mail or at early voting sites during elections over the past decade.
In Tuesday's election, more than 9.1 million of the 11.1 million votes from Floridians were cast via the mail or at early voting sites with virtually no reported issues.
Second, because mail-in and early voting are established, popular options in Florida, state law allows local elections supervisors to tabulate them upon arrival, unlike some states where votes cannot be counted until after polls close on Election Day, and, as a result, are still being counted now.
The third and, perhaps, most important reason: there were relatively few close races Tuesday. Of about 170 races, from president to state representative, only one in a state Senate district race required a recount.
DeSantis’ gubernatorial victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum by 30,000 votes in 2018 required a recount, as did former Gov. Rick Scott’s defeat by less than a half-percent over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in their U.S. Senate election.
Trump’s 3.4 percentage point margin is a blowout victory by Florida standards, with Republicans adding two congressional seats, five state House seats and one state Senate seat to cement GOP majorities.
There were relatively few close races, with incumbents in both parties reelected by voters in friendly districts.
No election is perfect, however. According to Common Cause, some voters were wrongly denied provisional ballots, the state made it difficult for voters to confirm their registration online, some counties did not allow voters to check whether their mail-in ballot had been counted and some polling places were moved without notifying voters.
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