I mailed my ballot on time. Florida tossed it. 2020 will be worse.

My ballot represented how delivery problems resulted in disenfranchisement, thanks to a problematic rule: Florida’s 7 p.m. Election Day receipt deadline. Under current law, overseas ballots have a 10-day grace period to arrive and be counted; our complaint asked that this also apply to ballots mailed domestically. Expanding that window could preserve the rights of tens thousands of people statewide. In Wisconsin, for instance, where a judge ordered a six-day grace period for mail ballots to arrive and be counted in the April primary, about 100,000 such ballots were saved from discard bins.

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Exhibit 1 in our lawsuit showed just how bad Florida’s mail ballot discard numbers are. About 26,300 Floridians who thought they’d successfully voted by mail in 2018 actually hadn’t, according to a lengthy analysis by Dartmouth government professor Michael Herron. Their ballots were discarded because of lateness, or because the envelope lacked a signature, or because the signature didn’t match the one on file at election headquarters. The discard rate in early 2020 was even worse: In Florida’s presidential primary on March 17, nearly half of voters opted for mail-in ballots (up from one-third in the last cycle). About 16,000 of those ballots went uncounted — 8,980 deemed late, 7,246 with signature problems.

To forecast the 2020 general election, Herron crunched ballot rejection rates and turnout percentages from past elections. In one plausible scenario, if overall turnout matched the 2016 rate of 75 percent, and 70 percent of voters cast ballots by mail (as they did for Wisconsin’s coronavirus-crazed presidential primary in April), then up to 153,000 ballots would probably go untallied in Florida in November. That is more than enough votes to alter a close race. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton here by 112,911 votes; Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Florida by 73,189 votes; Republican Rick Scott’s margin over Democrat Bill Nelson in the 2018 Senate race was just 10,000 votes.

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