By John Haughey | The Center Square
Mail-in voting is standard procedure in Florida, where one-third of the electorate has cast ballots through the mail for a decade.
In Tuesday’s state primaries, however, nearly 60 percent – 2.3 million of 3.9 million – of votes cast were mail-in ballots. Voter turnout was 28 percent, the highest for primary elections in Florida in 18 years.
Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said Wednesday, despite the deluge of mailed-in ballots, all went smoothly – votes were counted and winners declared by 10 p.m. Tuesday in nearly all races.
“What we have seen today has been an incredible exercise of cooperation between Florida’s voters, the poll workers and supervisors of election to ensure Florida’s elections continued safely and securely across our state,” Lee said.
“Most importantly,” she said, “no voter experience was disrupted. All voters were able to vote. In all, the challenges were very isolated, and we’ve had an orderly and successful day.”
“I think they did a really good job,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in praising county elections supervisors. “We had a lot of mail voting, you know, in Florida. It’s a safe way to do it. You request the ballot. You get it. You send it in. It’s not just ballots floating everywhere. So, a lot of folks availed themselves of that, and that obviously will be something that will be available in the fall as well.”
The 2.3 million mail-in votes was a 1 million more than cast in the 2016 general election, when U.S. Senate and governor races were on the ballot. There were no statewide races before voters Tuesday.
There also were relatively few down-to-the-wire races to foster post-election scrutiny of each and every vote cast before elections are certified.
That, also, has become standard procedure in Florida, where registered Democrat and Republican voters are nearly even and elections are notoriously tight, especially since the 2000 hanging chad presidential race recount required a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to resolve.
According to Florida’s Division of Elections (DOE), 13.89 million people are registered voters in the state. That number is expected to increase, perhaps significantly, before reopened registration for the Nov. 3 general election concludes Oct. 3.
Of the 13.89 million registered voters, 5.17 million are Democrats, 4.93 million are Republicans and 3.62 million are nonaffiliated. About 175,000 are registered with other parties, including 126,557 with the Independent Party and 35,405 with the Libertarian Party.
According to DOE, 4.29 million of the 13.89 million registered voters requested mail-in ballots, with 1.95 million ballots not returned; 857,736 Democrats, 570,027 Republicans and 498,048 nonaffiliated voters did not return ballots.
Of the 2,342,701 mail-in ballots returned to elections offices, 1,182,415 were from Democrats and 808,194 were from Republicans.
Two of those registered Republicans were President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, whose mailed-in ballots arrived Monday at the Palm Beach County Elections Office, Supervisor Wendy Link confirmed.
Trump has attempted to clarify, on behalf of Florida GOP officials, that his anti-mail ballot campaign is against “universal” mail-in voting, but his praise for the state’s “absentee” system only has clouded the waters since the state does not have an “absentee” voting system.
Despite Tuesday’s relatively smooth primary election, Lee warned elections officials cannot rest on their laurels, with an anticipated surge in voter registration and a much higher voter turnout – including by mail – expected for the general election.
“Today was not the finish line,” she said. “We still have much work to do to prepare for November’s presidential election to ensure voters are registered and aware of their voting options.”
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