TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There are just 25 days until the August primary election in Florida. A recent analysis found more than 18,000 mail ballots were not counted in March’s presidential primary. 8 On Your Side is looking into whether this could happen again on an even bigger scale.
Florida elections are decided by razor-thin margins. Elections experts expect a lot more people will vote by mail in November due to the pandemic.
“We are just very concerned about the election coming up in November,” said Charles Stewart, a professor of political science at MIT.
Professor Stewart believes Florida needs an education campaign.
In March’s presidential primary, nearly 1.4 million Floridians voted by mail. Professor Stewart says of those votes, more than 18,000 did not count.
Young voters and first-time voters were more likely to have their ballots rejected because they improperly filled it out or missed the deadline, he says.
“Some people actually might think it’s a relatively small number,” said Professor Stewart. “Numbers like that could potentially make a difference in the outcome of the race.”
Stewart believes a small but significant number of ballots are potentially at risk in November.
“Are you concerned that number is going to significantly increase during the general election?” investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi a local election supervisor.
“We do everything we can to try and help people remedy their ballot if they failed to sign it or if the signature doesn’t match,” Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer told her.
Latimer doesn’t only oversee elections in Hillsborough. He also represents Florida’s 67 supervisors of elections, helping them navigate the process in a pandemic.
Latimer’s office checked ballot scanners for accuracy on Friday and unveiled new plexiglass at polling sites.
In order to make sure your vote counts, officials urge that you request your mail ballot early and update your signature on file.
“There is some voter responsibility to follow up on it,” Latimer said. “We’re doing everything we can to contact the people to remedy it, we want their vote to count.”
Even if an uncounted vote doesn’t technically change the outcome of the election, experts expect problems.
“This just provides fuel for the fire after the election, for controversy over the counting and controversy over the legitimacy of the outcome,” said Professor Stewart.
In Florida, you have up to two days after the election to fix your mail ballots.
In reference to March’s uncounted primary votes, there is no fraud alleged here. According to the professor, the rejected ballots did match up with actual registered voters.
If you have a voting/election tip or concern, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com
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