Voters across Florida are getting mailers from Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, which are leading to some concerns about their absentee ballots. However, there are NO problems with the ballots.
A column by Andy Marlette on the Pensacola News Journal’s website says that Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” campaign has sent out flyers with “Voter Alert” in bold, red type, and a warning that “Your absentee ballot should have arrived.” That drew the attention of David Stafford – Escambia County’s Supervisor of Elections.
“We have actually sent ballots out, but they were specifically to military and overseas voters and those went out 46 days before the election (September 20),” said Stafford. “And the way the Florida statutes read, is that the first absentee ballots to civilian voters is between 28 and 35 days before an election. So the first legal day we could drop that second volume of ballots is on Tuesday, the (September) 30th.”
Responding to an email request for comment by WUWF, a Scott campaign spokeswoman said, “Voting by mail is important, and we hope that all voters will receive and return their vote-by-mail ballots promptly.” There was no word on the origin or thinking behind the flyer. Is this type of mailing illegal or otherwise actionable? Stafford says that’s not for him to decide.
“From what I read, the explanation was that they indicated it was a mail piece that just simply went out too early,” Stafford said. “But if there are concerns about the legality of it, the appropriate authority for that is the Florida Elections Commission over in Tallahassee. But I’m not aware whether or not they’re looking into the matter.”
Close to 30,000 absentee ballots are going out across Escambia County. Stafford says requests for them continue to come in – which could push the total number to around 40,000 by the October 29 deadline to request an absentee ballot.
Early voting kicks off Monday, October 20 at seven locations around Escambia County, including the Supervisor of Elections Office. The period runs through Sunday, November 1 for a total of 13 days at nine hours per day. The deadline to register to vote in the November 4 general election is 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 6. Florida law mandates that registration books close 29 days before an election.
One common concern among all candidates for office – from Washington, to Tallahassee to the grassroots – is turnout. Historically, it’s not that great in a non-presidential election cycle. Stafford says reports from primaries around the country indicate turnout has been down to this point, and what remains to be seen is how it will be affected in Florida by the rancorous governor’s race.
“There’s been a big push from both camps to advocate absentee voting,” said Stafford. “I think that once we get closer to early voting, you’ll see a big push towards early voting. So I think there’s going to be a big effort on both sides to see who can do a better job of turning out their voters. Because if you believe the polling data, it’s going to be a close contest.”
For more information on the upcoming election, or to request an absentee ballot, visit Escambiavotes.com.