Count ALL The Votes? Why Would Florida Do Something Like That?
More tales of voting madness from the Sunshine State, part ninety-jillion: Following last month's What-The-Clusterfuck of attempts to accurately count, then recount, the votes from the midterm elections in Florida, state officials now have at least a pretty good tally of just how many absentee votes didn't get counted because they arrived in the mail after Election Day. Bad news: It was thousands of votes -- 6,670 ballots which were mailed before the election but not counted because they didn't arrive by the November 6 deadline. Sorta-Good News: This year, at least, it doesn't look like the results in any races would have been any different if those rejected ballots had been included in the statewide totals. Weird News: Two counties -- Polk in central Florida and Palm Beach, one of the state's most populous -- still haven't reported their uncounted absentee ballot totals to the state, so who knows how accurate the previous statement will be once they do, particularly since Palm Beach County is heavily Democratic. Forget it, Jake, it's Floridatown.
So here is Florida's stupid, stupid absentee voting law: Unlike in sane states which will count votes postmarked by election day, ballots sent within the USA have to arrive at county offices by 7:00 p.m. local time on election night in order to be counted. Yes, no matter how well in advance of the election they were postmarked or who was responsible for the delay, like maybe a Post Office that was shuttered for a while thanks to that pipe bomb investigation. Absentee ballots from military personnel or civilians living overseas will still get counted if they arrive up to 10 days after election. But even if you mailed your ballot from Yeehaw Junction two weeks ahead of time, it won't be counted if it didn't get delivered in time, sucks to be youhaw.
A veterans group and two Democratic-affiliated groups sued in federal court shortly after election day, arguing that any ballot postmarked by election day should be counted. Unfortunately, that equal-protection claim didn't fly with Judge Mark Walker, who refused to order all the ballots counted, because each state is allowed to set its own rules for voting. BUT! The lawsuit is still going forward, and who knows, maybe the results will pleasantly surprise us? Walker did ask state officials to provide data on how many ballots were rejected for arriving late, so that's why the Florida Department of State came to the tally of 6,670 (with those two counties pending, because Florida).
The Associated Press notes the uncounted ballots would not have tipped any close races this year:
In the battle for agriculture commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried won her election by 6,753 votes. Republican Gov. Rick Scott ousted incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by slightly more than 10,000 votes.
Walker presided over a whole bunch of ballot-counting cases this fall, including a separate absentee ballot case where he ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, giving more time to folks to appeal if their signatures on mail-in ballots were judged not to match a signature on file. It's a seriously sketchy (I.e., Republican) reason to reject ballots, which was also challenged successfully in Georgia. While Walker gave voters more time to resolve questions about whether they'd submitted a valid ballot, that ultimately didn't affect a huge number of voters:
State officials testified in court that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signatures did not match. The Department of State last week informed Walker that his ruling resulted in 637 votes being counted in the final totals.
See? Hardly any appreciable difference.
At least until you remember the official (though disputed) difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 was 537 votes.
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