Once the nation’s laughingstock, Florida out of the crosshairs in 2020 | Our view

The Editorial Board
 |  FLORIDA TODAY

There were no hanging (or pregnant) chads.

No reports of confusing ballot designs that led some South Florida voters to accidentally miss voting in a 2018 U.S Senate race. 

And, above all, the country did not have to wait days for Florida to count more than 3 million mail-in ballots, as we’ve watched in Pennsylvania, for example.

That means that despite our worst fears of a flashback to 2000, Florida is out of the crosshairs. Thanks to state rules that allowed supervisors of elections to begin processing and tabulating mail ballots 22 days before Election Day (the results were not released until polls closed on Election Day), and efficient early voting, Florida can now resume its laidback way of life and watch other states become the focus. 

More: Latest election results for Brevard County in Florida

More: Follow live presidential election results

Once the nation’s laughingstock, now we’ve set an example. 

“… We were able to report the vast majority of our results – millions of votes – within a half-hour of polls closing on Election Night,” Craig Latimer, president of Florida Supervisors of Elections, wrote in a letter to the group’s members.

Contrast that with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where mail ballots could not be processed until Election Day. In Pennsylvania, efforts to allow counties to begin processing ballots earlier died in a stalemate between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature. 

Of course, had Trump not won the Sunshine State decisively — with a 3.3% margin that was larger than in 2016 — Florida would have been in a much different situation. Just look back to 2018, when a recount was needed in the races for governor and U.S. Senate because they were so close. That’s when we found out the Broward County ballot design resulted in 3.5% fewer people voting for the Senate race compared to other statewide races. That’s because that race was placed below a long list of instructions.

Had we seen razor-thin margins in the presidential race like we saw in 2018, you can bet the Trump and Joe Biden campaigns would be gearing up for a recount and a legal battle. 

Since 2018, Florida has passed a law that enacted new requirements on where instructions can be placed on the ballot. In June, as supervisors of elections prepared for record turnout, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that allowed counties to begin canvassing vote-by-mail ballots slightly earlier and allowed state employees to take administrative leave to serve as poll workers. 

Florida also benefitted from a long tradition of mail voting that other states did not have (for example, in Texas you can only vote by mail if you fall under certain categories, such as being at least 65 or being away from your county). Even when Trump falsely accused mail voting of being riddled with fraud, he assured his supporters the Sunshine State was safe (the fact that DeSantis is a Trump ally also had something to do with that). 

More than a third of Florida voters used mail ballots this year, according to Florida Supervisors of Elections. They also had the option of returning those ballots in person because the law requires supervisors to have drop boxes at all of their offices and early voting sites.

Whether your candidate won or not, we can all find comfort in the fact that in 2020 Florida avoided the drama, the late nights and the legal challenges.

We can breathe a sigh of relief that if anything goes wrong at least no one can blame it on Florida Man. 

Editorial written by the Florida Today editorial board on behalf of the USA TODAY Network-Florida.

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