Voting Rights Groups Call For Changes Despite Smooth Primaries

Aug 20, 2020
Originally published on August 21, 2020 12:27 pm

Florida-based voting rights groups are calling the state’s primary election a success. More than three million Floridians, or roughly 27.5% of registered voters, cast ballots, many through vote-by-mail. Election observers are hoping for a repeat of the relatively problem-free election in November.

In Leon County, election day went off smoothly for the most part, despite an afternoon thunderstorm that knocked out power to some precincts. Leon County Supervisor Mark Earley says the hitch didn’t slow down the process, although...

"In a few places the backup battery capacity was getting real low before we could get back up generators out," said Earley. "So it’s just more contingency planning, but I think overall game plan I think it was great.”

The county saw about 36% of its registered voters cast ballots. Leon County vote return was the third highest in the state. Earley says this election was different because most voters cast their ballots through vote-by-mail.

"The vote-by-mail was at least double what we would normally get. Actually well more than double what we would get for a primary election," said Earley. "I think the most we’d ever had for a primary was 17,000 we had almost 44,000 vote-by-mail this time."

Those same trends showed up statewide.

"According to the state numbers about 2.3 million voted by mail, 558,430 voted early," said Brad Ashwell, the state director for the voting rights group, All Voting is Local.

“We had 3.8 million voters. According to the state this morning it’s a 28% turnout versus about 2.9 million in 2016 so almost a million more voters.

Still, despite a relatively smooth election, Ashwell and his organization remain on guard.

"It’s important to note that November will look very different than yesterday, the ballot will be longer, we will have a contentious presidential election," said Ashwell. "We have a very real concern about a voter challenge campaign for the first time in decades. And we can just expect a larger turnout in November."

Ashwell wants a list of changes for early voting options after seeing the increased use of the option this election.

"We should expand early voting hours and days, we should expand the use of drop boxes and publicize them better for vote-by-mail ballots," said We should extend the deadline for vote-by-mail ballots."

Ashwell believes extending when ballots can be received will help account for any delays within the postal service. American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein recently told PBS News Hour that mail delivery is seeing a slowdown amid federal policy changes.

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