By Charlie Reed
New voter registrations are still being processed at Osceola County’s elections office and a record 90,000 voters in the county have requested mail-in ballots. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 24.
By Election Day, Osceola is expected to have 240,000 registered voters, according to Supervisor of Elections Mary Jane Arrington.
That’s 20,000 more than were registered for the mid-term elections in 2018, she said.
Arrington said this week that she doesn’t expect any delays in tallying votes on election night but is urging voters with mail-in ballots to post them soon or drop them off at the elections office or one of 8 early voting locations that open Monday, Arrington said.
“Get them to us early. We tend to be a society of procrastinators and put off things that we can do today,” she said. “You don’t even have to get out of your car.”
It’s a common refrain among election officials throughout the state this year when record numbers of mail-in ballots have been sent out, some of it attributed to the pandemic.
Processing mail-in ballots is more laborious than in-person voting because they must be taken out of the envelope and secrecy slip before being counted.
Ballots cast ahead of Election Day are fed into a tabulator but are not counted until that night, after the polls close in accordance with state law, Arrington said.
While poll workers and supervisory clerks run the 41 voting sites in Osceola, there are also designated poll watchers. Only candidates on the ballot and political parties can appoint official poll watchers.
So far, two local candidates running for office and officials from the Democratic and Republican parties have appointed poll watchers. Each candidate or entity is allowed only one observer, who must be certified by the local elections office in advance, according to Arrington.
Besides poll watchers, poll workers and those casting ballots, nobody else is allowed to access or be inside the rooms where ballots are cast, according to state law.
Still, it’s common to see campaign volunteers and candidates outside polling sites.
Two local polling locations have been shuttered this election. The one at Good Samaritan Village, a community for senior citizens, was closed because of concerns about COVID-19. The other in Intercession City was closed because it’s too small to allow for social distancing practices. But both sets of voters can cast their ballots at the new Osceola County Tax Collector’s office in Campbell, essentially equidistant from the old polling locations.
Meanwhile, top leaders from the Florida Supervisors of Elections Association warned Floridians at a press conference on Monday that final results for the presidential contest are not to be expected on election night this year.
“Florida has close results, so with unofficial (results) there could be a recount triggered...It’s a long, intensive process,” said Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor of Elections and vice president of the trade group.
Earley noted that the first round of unofficial results from the county election officials aren’t due to the state until noon on Saturday, Nov. 7 and must be officially verified by Nov. 15.
“We’ve been pushing voters – don’t wait until the last minute,” Earley said.