TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Thousands of mail-in ballots were rejected in Florida’s August primary because, by law, they simply arrived too late to be counted.
Voting rights groups are now calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend vote-by-mail deadlines so that more votes will be counted in the general election.
The voting groups believe the mail-in numbers will be even larger in November. They believe change is necessary in a battleground state where elections are decided by razor-thin margins.
“It’s completely outrageous that we’re rejecting so many ballots,” said Brad Ashwell, the Florida director for the non-partisan group All Voting is Local.
We contacted Florida’s 67 counties to see how many mail-in ballots were rejected in the August primary.
With just 41 counties reporting back on Friday, 8 On Your Side has confirmed nearly 19,000 ballots were rejected. The ballots either had a signature issue that wasn’t cured in time or they arrived too late.
“It really doesn’t matter what party you’re aligned with, we’re facing a global pandemic,” said Ashwell. “We really just need the governor to take leadership.”
Right now, Florida requires mail-in ballots to be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Voters have two days after that to fix signature issues.
In a letter to Gov. DeSantis, Ashwell’s organization and others are calling for both deadlines to be extended to five days after Election Day.
Ashwell says the mail-in ballot would still need to be postmarked by Election Day.
“All he has to do is really wave his pen and say that he wants to extend that deadline,” said Ashwell.
Citrus County’s Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill says they’ll follow whatever rules they’re told.
“We have the rules that we follow, all the deadlines and such,” said Gill. “It’s not really our decision and so we will just do whatever we’re told to do.”
“What would be the implications of changing the deadline now?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.
“Basically, when you move one part of this whole schedule, deadline, then everything else has to be changed as well,” Gill explained.
While some worry about changing the deadlines so close to the November election, Ashwell says Florida’s rules are conservative as compared to other states.
“There’s lots of misplaced concerns about voter fraud, the real issue is that voters are getting rejected,” said Ashwell.
8 On Your Side reached out to Governor DeSantis’ office on Friday. We have not heard back yet as of Friday evening.
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