With an unprecedented number of voters opting to cast ballots by mail in Florida and throughout the nation, elections officials are urging patience in what some experts say should be viewed as “election season” rather than Election Day.
“Our focus is on getting this right, not getting it done as fast as possible to satisfy all the voices out there clamoring for instantaneous results. You can’t have perfection instantaneously,” Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told reporters early this week during a video conference hosted by Common Cause Florida.
Supervisors and public-interest groups are trying to spread the word that it could take days for elections officials to get a final tally in the battle between Trump and Biden.
The push to educate the public about the time involved in the tabulation of mail-in ballots comes as the Republican president has repeatedly demanded that a winner of the Nov. 3 election be determined by the end of Election Day.
In Florida, elections officials are allowed to begin processing mail-in ballots weeks before Election Day. But in some states, the ballots can’t be counted until the day of the election.
This year’s exponential number of mail-in ballots — including in some states that have initiated vote-by-mail procedures for the first time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — could result in an extended ballot-counting period, experts say.
Uncertainty about the outcome of the Trump-Biden race by the end of Election Day is OK, they emphasized.
The Florida elections supervisors pointed out that their unofficial tallies do not have to be submitted to state officials until noon Saturday, Nov. 7. After Election Day, officials have to scrutinize provisional ballots, ballots of voters who had an opportunity to “cure” mismatched signatures, and verify precinct-level results.
“It’s a long, intensive process,” Earley said. “Tabulation is not a horse race. It’s not suddenly, this person’s ahead and this person’s behind and it switches and, OK, there’s another lead change. Nothing’s changed. … The results are all in. We just have to figure out what they are.”
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