Thousands Of Florida Mail-In Ballots Were Never Counted, Even Though They Were Sent Before Election Day

Florida election workers count ballots during the 2018 election recount.
Saul Martinez / Getty Images

Thousands of Florida voters who sent in their ballots ahead of Election Day never had their votes counted, the state’s board of election revealed this week.

The state’s election results were marred by controversy amid allegations of voter suppression and improperly discarded ballots, and the new revelation about uncounted ballots has generated even more criticism. As the Associated Press reported, the state told a judge that 6,670 ballots that were mailed ahead of the November 6 election were not counted because they did not arrive at county offices by Election Day. According to Florida state law, ballots must arrive by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted, while ballots from US military members stationed overseas can arrive up to 10 days after the election.

The veteran rights group VoteVets had sued the state last year, saying that the Florida law was too restrictive on voters and arguing that all ballots mailed before Election Day should be counted. A judge initially ruled that the state’s deadline was reasonable, but had asked for information on how many ballots that were mailed ahead of the election were not counted.

As the Associated Press reported noted, the same judge had made an earlier ruling that voters must be given extra time to fix mail-in ballots that had a signature not matching the one on file for local election officials. That had given hope to some proponents that the judge may also be leaning toward ruling in favor of VoteVets and other left-leaning groups pushing for fewer restrictions on voters, but there has not yet been a final ruling.

Opponents of the state law had argued that once ballots were in the mail, voters had no control over how long it took for them to arrive at county election offices. Delays in the mail could mean that ballots placed in the mail more than a week before the election could still not be counted.

As The Hill noted, three of Florida statewide races — for governor, the US Senate seat, and agriculture commissioner — were so close that they went to recounts.

Democrats have pushed for fewer restrictions on voters, attacking actions in Florida and Georgia to purge voter roles and restrict voters, with measures they say are aimed at minorities and other groups more likely to vote Democratic. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that one of the first actions the newly elected Democratic majority will take is a bill to expand voting rights.