Despite a blitz of ads and a half million dollar educational campaign, some South Florida voters still failed to return mail ballots by the Election Day deadline.
That meant 1,588 ballots in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties weren’t counted, according to tallies provided by election officials.
The number isn’t enough to change the result of the presidential election in Florida, but it highlights a recurring issue with mail voting. Ballots that arrive after 7 p.m. on Election Day are disqualified.
Election officials say the number of late ballots was small despite nationwide concern about postal delays. For the primary election in August, 3,163 mail ballots arrived too late in Broward County, compared with only 582 for the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Broward County spent $500,000 on a “sign, seal and deliver on time" campaign, blasting ads on mobile phones and streaming services reminding people to mail their ballot early, said Steve Vancore, a spokesman for Supervisor of Elections Pete Antonacci. Election officials also signed an agreement to pick up ballots directly from post offices, and drop boxes were available throughout the county.
"The ballots came in a lot earlier,” he said. “The number of deficient envelopes was minuscule.”
Nearly 1.4 million people successfully voted by mail in South Florida. Trump won the state by more than 370,000 votes.
The U.S. Postal Service advised voters that they needed to mail their ballot at least a week before Election Day for it to arrive in time to be counted.
The League of Women Voters of Florida wanted mail ballots postmarked by Election Day received up to 10 days after Election Day to be counted, the same amount of time given to overseas voters to return their ballots.
Patti Brigham, the organization’s president, said she was disappointed that extension wasn’t granted, but she was pleased with how election officials conducted the election.
“Florida put on a good election this year,” she said. “All eyes were on our state for any kind of drama and very little drama occurred. We had a record turnout. I didn’t hear of any significant problems on Election Day.”
Some states, including Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina, allowed mail ballots that arrived after Election Day to be counted. North Carolina counted ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within nine days of the election.
Extending the deadline would have meant it would have taken longer to determine who won Florida, a fiercely contested battleground state, Vancore said. Fox News was the first major news network to call the state of Florida for Trump at 11:05 p.m. on Election Day.
“People have plenty of time,” Vancore said. “There has to be a cutoff date. Everyone wants to know the results quickly, but you can’t say drop it in the mail whenever and expect fast results.”
Mail ballots were disqualified for other reasons.
Another 2,503 ballots in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties weren’t counted because the envelope wasn’t signed, the signature didn’t match the one on file at the election office or the voter moved, according to election officials.
Voters had until 5 p.m. Nov. 5 to fix any problems with their ballots.
Skyler Swisher can be reached at email@example.com, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher
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