With millions of Floridians seeking to vote by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic, postal officials have warned Secretary of State Laurel Lee that the state is at risk of having ballots go uncounted in the November presidential election.
Florida, a battleground in the election, is among states that received alerts from U.S. Postal Service General Counsel Thomas Marshall late last month. The Washington Post reported Friday that Marshall cautioned 46 states, including Florida, that mail-in ballot policies conflict with the postal service’s delivery schedules.
“This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them,” Marshall wrote to Lee on July 29, in a letter obtained Friday by The News Service of Florida.
Certain Florida law “requirements and deadlines appear to be incompatible with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” Marshall noted.
“As a result, to the extent that the mail is used to transmit ballots to and from voters, there is a significant risk that, at least in certain circumstances, ballots may be requested in a manner that is consistent with your election rules and returned promptly, and yet not be returned in time to be counted,” he added.
Under Florida law, county supervisors of elections can send mail-in ballots to voters up to eight days before an election.
The main classes of mail used for ballots are “First-Class Mail,” most of which is delivered two to five days after it is received, and “USPS Marketing Mail,” which is delivered three to 10 days after it is received, according to Marshall. Local elections officials use both classes of mail, he said.
Florida law, which requires ballots to be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted, allows voters to request mail-in ballots “as late as 10 days before the election,” Marshall observed.