Should Florida change the timeline for voting by mail?
Bottom Line: There’s a controversial bill making its way through the state session that probably shouldn’t be considered controversial. It would change the timeline for votes by mail to be sent out to voters. Current Florida law allows a registered voter to request a ballot by mail as late as six days prior to the election. Should the proposal being considered in the state session become law,it’d move to ten days out. The Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party has labeled it as an effort at “voter suppression” while the advocates, who are Republicans, have made the case that six days isn’t always enough time for a ballot to be sent, received, cast, mailed and received by a Supervisor of Elections in time to be tabulated. I have a hard time arguing with that point or specifically seeing why that’d be a partisan issue.
Voting by mail has become increasingly popular and increasingly controversial. Last year, leading up to the November elections, I broke out analysis on voting trends and outcomes. One that was very clear in Florida was the rise in voting by mail and the number of rejected ballots by mail. And that was before the debacles in Broward and Palm Beach County along with recount madness that only further emphasized the growing issues with votes not being tabulated correctly and/or filled out correctly by would be voters. As I pointed out six months ago, your vote is ten times more likely not to be counted if you mail it in.
Recently South Florida media focused on Stoneman Douglas students who were found to not have their votes by mail tabulated though a public records search. That gained attention for all of the obvious reasons. However, the truth is that typically registered Republicans are more negatively impacted than Democrats in Florida with mailed in votes not being counted. In the 2018 cycle there were 54,208 more votes by mail cast by Republicans than Democrats. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that races like the Agriculture Commissioner race, decided by only a few thousand votes, might have broken differently had all of the votes been accurately submitted and tabulated. Maybe that’s what this is really about from a partisan perspective? Regardless it simply makes sense to me. I’m all about minimizing potential points of failure in any process.