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Election 2020: Record Turnout In Florida

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Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media
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Voters across Florida have been casting ballots since 7 a.m. local time in today’s General Election. This after more than nine million ballots were cast early and by mail.

That nine million-plus figure equals nearly 63% of all registered voters. As a possible result, wait times are not expected to be long in most locations.

“This morning we reached out to all 67 of Florida’s supervisors of elections, and have been assured that polling locations are open; they are prepared, and they are equipped for voters,” Secretary of State Laurel Lee said. “All precincts opened on time, and voters are currently casting ballots.”

Those in line at seven o’clock this evening will be allowed to vote. Lee says before voters head to the polls, they should check with their county’s supervisor of elections office for any updated polling locations. And she emphasizes that sanitation and safety in this era of COVID-19 tops their agenda.

“Supervisors of elections are aware of all guidance from the CDC and the Florida Department of Health,” said Lee. “[Regarding] best practices for hand-washing and sanitation recommendations for polling places, as well as guidance from voting machine manufacturers on how to keep equipment and supplies safe.”

The Secretary of State also reminded voters to take any information on social media with a grain of salt – or maybe a 10-pound bag.

“Several weeks ago we had voters who received threatening and intimidating emails that were, I believe, an effort to interfere with their voting behavior,” Lee said. “That incident was quickly addressed by the FBI, and those voters were informed very promptly that that’s exactly what it was.”

Voters need to understand two things, says Lee, as they go to the polls.

“First off, that that incident occurred with publicly available information; our databases are secure,” said Lee. “And second, a vote is always secret; a ballot is always secret. No one will ever know how a voter chooses to vote on Election Day.”

As of today, Lee says there have not been any new reports of disinformation involving the election.

“The most important thing for Florida voters to remember, is that any information about precinct locations, lines, delays, or election information should come from their supervisors of elections,” Lee said. “That would be the most accurate source of any information.”

In Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, turnout is said to be steady. David Stafford, Escambia’s elections supervisor, says what he calls the “universe of votes left” is smaller than in past elections, because of the massive early and mail voting. The modern turnout record, he says, was 80% set in 2008.

“I say ‘modern’ because that’s after the National Voter Registration Act was passed [in 1994], so you’ve got to take turnout before the passage of that, and turnout after that and treat them a little bit differently, said Stafford. For us to get there, it’s only going to take about another 50,000-60,000 Election Day votes over the 80 precincts around the county.”

Okaloosa led the region at just over 60% as of Monday, according to Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux.

For the 2020 election cycle, Lux’s office mailed an additional 20,000 ballots, compared to 2016. Lux says the pandemic played a role in that.

“Our percentage of turnout in 2016, we mailed 28,000 and got back 23,000,” Lux said. “So was a return rate of about 82%. Now we’re looking at about a 74% turnout. We’re still checking in ballots; that number’s only to continue to climb.”

Not only did COVID-19 close the elections office, it also sidelined Lux with a mild case of the ailment. He says he’s now doing “very well.”

“I was back behind my desk on the absolute first day I was allowed to come back; hadn’t had a fever in days, my taste and smell had already returned,” Lux said. ‘My wife never contracted it at all; she just ended her quarantine [Monday].”

National media outlets have been reporting that the White House and Republican operatives may be poised to shut down counting the votes at a certain point after Election Day. Escambia County’s David Stafford concedes that may be possible in some states, but it’s less likely to occur in Florida.

“We can begin – and have begun – canvassing our vote-by-mail ballots weeks in advance, to the point we’ve got very few left yet to canvass,” said Stafford. “And then all of the early votes that are cast. So by the end of Election Night, well above 90% of the votes cast in the election in Florida should be reported.”

Statewide, Florida Democrats have cast 108,000  more ballots than Republicans, as the nation’s largest swing state heads into Tuesday. Both parties in Florida have engaged multitudes of lawyers, ready to rush to court at any sign of voter suppression, fraud or other political shenanigans.