Supervisor of elections urges vote-by-mail, despite challenge

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

It seems that Leon County supervisor of elections isn’t letting a lawsuit slow down his efforts to promote voting by mail.

Mark Earley said he is pushing the campaign for voting by mail because of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. Voting by mail will also help to ensure that electorates get a chance to cast their ballots, he said.

“In Florida, all supervisors understand that the uncertainty around COVID-19 means that in-person voting may be very difficult this fall,” Earley said. “I think we all anticipate there will be in-person voting, but that might be restricted because of poll workers drop off.”

Election supervisors throughout the state also have the backing of the ACLU, which is promoting voting by mail on its website. The effort, however, is being met by a lawsuit that essentially contends that voting by mail is flawed.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley is encouraging voters to use the vote-by-mail option this election.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

Plaintiffs in the suit that was filed last week include the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and Alianza for Progress. News sources also reported that several individuals are among the plaintiffs.

The group’s biggest complaint is that the vote-by-mail “regime is ill-equipped to handle this influx of new voters.” The postage requirement for voting by mail is also another issue that the suit challenges.

Earley responded to that, saying that voters who choose to use the vote-by-mail option could also bring their ballots to the supervisor’s office or drop it off into a mail-box type receptacle that will be at early voting sites. The primary requirement for using that option is that signed ballots have to be received by 5 p.m. on election day.

According to a report in Politico, a federal judge was asked by the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party of Florida and the National Republican Congressional Committee to intervene in the suit.

The initial lawsuit was brought against Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Politico in a statement that the initial case “exposes Florida to potential fraud.”

“Democrats never let a crisis go to waste, and they are using a pandemic to completely destroy the integrity of our elections,” McDaniel wrote in the statement.

While the Republican Party contends that Democrats are attempting to “steal as many votes as possible,” Earley said the vote-by-mail process has been tested by states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California, which has switched to 100 percent vote by mail per county.

Additionally, he said vote-by-mail in Florida has proven to be secured over the years. For example, he said, under 1 percent of ballots are rejected because voters forget to sign or the signature didn’t match.

During the 2018 general election, over 27,000 ballots were cast by mail, Earley said. Twenty-seven of those were rejected because of a signature mismatch and there were 28 rejections because there was no signature, he said.

The vote-by-mail option is one of three that voters in Florida have. Voting early and on election day are the other two options. 

Early voting in Leon County for the Aug. 18 primary begins Aug. 3 for the primary and Oct. 19 for the general election on Nov. 3.

Earley suggested that voters who want to use the vote-by-mail option should mail their ballot at least five days before election day. A ballot could be requested by telephone, email or visiting the election office at 2990-1 Apalachee Parkway.

Voters should consider voting by mail as a Plan B, Earley said, adding that “it’s like a fallback position.”

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