JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While early voting began Monday in Duval and several other Northeast Florida counties, thousands of others are also taking advantage of the vote-by-mail process.
There is an extra push this year for people to cast their ballots at home and mail them in because of COVID-19. President Donald Trump has been critical of the vote-by-mail process, saying it could lead to widespread voter fraud.
In Duval County, the big numbers already casting ballots are those voting by mail. That percentage could change in the next two weeks.
Out of the nearly 640,000 registered voters in Duval County, 97,000 people have requested vote-by-mail ballots. Of that, 24‚000 have already been returned.
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News4Jax political expert Rick Mullaney, head of Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute, talked about this trend.
“In recent years, there has been a big push for early voting. But now it’s more important than ever, particularly with COVID-19, and this will be the first time most Floridians have gone to the ballot box in the midst of a pandemic,” Mullaney said.
At the Election Center on Jacksonville’s Northside, the vote-by-mail ballots were being sorted Monday. Starting Tuesday, officials will open them and tabulate the ballots by machine. The results won’t be known until election day on Aug.18.
Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said voters can track their ballot requests and process online. He believes it’s working well.
News4Jax asked Hogan about the president’s concern about mail-in ballots leading to voter fraud.
“For me, it’s very obvious that mail ballot voting has more opportunity for fraud than early voting or election day voting,” Hogan said.
He added that when a person votes at a precinct or early voting site, they have to show their ID. When they vote by mail, election staff only have a signature on file to verify the person.
And verifying that signature is where it can get tricky, even though it goes through many steps and an election canvassing board before a mail-in ballot is tossed out.
Still, given the coronavirus pandemic, voting by mail could be the safest way to go, and it’s the main reason that some are pushing for voters to take advantage of it.