Election supervisor: Delayed mail might have delivered different result in CD 20 Primary Election
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Some ballots arriving after Primary Election Day were postmarked Oct. 21.

The latest count shows just five votes separate the two top vote-getters in last week’s Democratic Primary Election for Congressional District 20, so it’s easy to believe that 287 ballots that were delayed in the mail might have delivered an entirely different outcome.

Broward County Elections Supervisor Joe Scott told the Broward County legislative delegation this week the ballots his office received after the Primary Election on Nov. 2 were postmarked before that day. Some of them were stamped as early as Oct. 21, he said.

Scott urged lawmakers to push for changes in election law that would make votes postmarked by Election Day count, even if they arrive at their destination well after the election is over. A number of states allow it, he said.

“People are used to thinking of their ballot like their tax return — it’s on time as long as it’s postmarked by April 15, or, in the case of the ballot, by Election Day,” he said. “With low turnout elections that are determined by a handful of votes, not counting all these votes feels like disenfranchising voters.”

Even with the virus waning, the vast majority of votes cast in Broward County this election were mail-in ballots; 25,270 votes came in by mail, compared to 14,020 cast in early voting and on Primary Election Day.

“It’s clear this is the preferred method,” Scott said.

Florida law says a returned mail-in ballot must be received, regardless of postmark, by the Supervisor of Elections’ office no later than 7 p.m. (local time) on Election Day.

“A 10-day extension exists for overseas voters only for Presidential Preference Primary and General Elections, provided the ballot is postmarked or dated by Election Day. Untimely received ballots are otherwise not counted,” according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

In the too close to call Democratic Primary, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness and Trinity Health Care Services CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick are awaiting a recount Friday of one of the closest contests in years. It could turn on 14 votes from overseas military ballots, or not, if those votes are spread out among the 11 Democrats that competed in the Primary Election.

They vied to fill the congressional seat vacated when Rep. Alcee Hastings died April 6 after a cancer battle.

The winner of the Democratic Primary for CD 20 is highly likely to be the new member of Congress, as the area leans heavily Democratic.

According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index, the district is Democratic by 28 percentage points. That leaves the Republican Primary Election winner Jason Mariner and multiple third-party candidates unlikely to win in the General Election on Jan. 11.

CD 20 straddles Palm Beach and Broward counties, including areas around Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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