By The News Service of Florida
Potentially millions of ballots could hit the mail starting Thursday for the Nov. 3 general election in Florida. County supervisors of elections are required to send out their first big batches of vote-by-mail ballots between Thursday and Oct. 1.
Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said in a news release that his office will put more than 355,000 ballots in the mail on Thursday. Hillsborough County has already sent out more than 6,800 ballots to overseas and military voters. Overall, more than 4.7 million vote-by-mail ballots have been requested by Florida’s 13.89 million voters.
As of Wednesday, Democrats statewide had requested 2.18 million ballots to 1.48 million sought by Republicans. Another 990,341 had been requested by voters without party affiliations, and 55,640 were set to be sent to voters registered with third parties.
Ballots go out earlier to overseas voters and military personnel, and 2,136 had been returned Wednesday. Democrats had returned 1,190, Republicans had returned 526, and unaffiliated voters had returned 384. Another 36 had been completed by third-party voters.
In 2016, when 3.47 million vote-by-mail ballots were sent out, Republicans returned 1.08 million of the ballots and Democrats returned 1.03 million, as President Donald Trump won the state by 112,911 overall votes.
Florida Republicans have been working to counter Trump’s attacks this year on voting by mail in other parts of the country. With some states sending absentee-ballot applications to all registered voters and expanding election laws to allow voters to cast ballots from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has decried the possibility of election fraud. Trump, however, has said Florida — a crucial battleground state — is an exemplar of how mail-in voting should be conducted.
Florida requires voters to request mail-in ballots before elections officials can provide them. The state adopted its “no-excuse” absentee-voting system in 2002, and in 2016 switched the name from “absentee” to “vote-by-mail.” Floridians have until Oct. 5 to register to vote.