With the general election just three weeks away, there isn’t any indication of a “blue wave” developing in Florida if you consider the number of vote-by-mail ballots submitted to local elections officials so far.
Meanwhile, the impact from Hurricane Michael is being seen in the number of returned mail-in ballots reported by election supervisors in that part of the state.
More than 2.6 million mail-in ballots were sent out by elections supervisors two weeks ago. As of early Tuesday morning nearly 446,000 of those ballots had been returned with almost 40,000 more Republicans submitting ballots than Democrats, even though Democrats requested almost 120,000 more of the mail-in ballots than did their GOP counterparts
Statistics compiled by the state Division of Elections show GOP voters have returned 202,731 of the ballots to date, while Democrats have submitted 162,881. Another 77,896 have been turned in by voters with no party affiliation, with 2,465 ballots mailed back by voters registered with other parties.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle last week has impacted the numbers with many of the counties not reporting any updates since the day the storm hit or just before.
There are nine affected counties that have not reported updates since at least last Wednesday. Most of those counties are small rural, more conservative counties. The largest is Bay County where Panama City and Mexico Beach are located. It has nearly 120,000 registered voters of which 13,575 requested a mail-in ballot. So far, that county’s election office is reporting 256 ballots submitted. In the primary election, nearly 12,000 Bay County voters requested mail-in ballots with voters returning almost 6,000.
Gulf County, which sits just east of Bay County, received 1505 requests for mail-in ballots. As of Tuesday morning, the county’s election supervisor reported none of the ballots have been returned.
Throughout the nine county region affected by Michael where mail-in updates haven’t been received by the Division of Elections in a week or more, nearly 30,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been sent out. As of Tuesday morning, 560 were reported to be submitted to local election offices.
Those voters who requested a mail-in ballot still have three weeks to submit their ballots. We reached out to the state Division of Elections for comment on why those counties have not reported returned mail-in ballots in the past week — whether voters have not been able to submit their ballots or if local election officials just aren’t able to report them to Tallahassee as the result of power outages, disruption of mail service, physical damage — but election officials have not responded.