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Are mail ballots the new hanging chads?

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 4:48 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - 12,000 of the 2.5 million mail ballots already returned can’t be counted until signature problems are fixed.

Three million mail ballots remain outstanding and problems with mail ballots may well be the source of lawsuits challenging this year’s election results.

In 2000, George Bush’s top legal advisor James Baker had never heard of a hanging chad until we told him about the scrap of paper dangling from punch-card ballots.

“You’re the first person that has mentioned that to me, and that, of course, will be the subject of review,” said Baker in a 2000 interview.

Barry Richard was Bush’s lawyer in Florida.

“I don’t expect a repeat. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a delay for new reasons,” said Richard.

Mail ballots could be the hanging chad of 2020.

12,000 have already been flagged for problems.

“We have thousands of ballots that are coming in with no signature on the return envelope,” said UF Political Scientist Dr. Daniel Smith.

The difference between handing chads and mail ballots, is that with hanging chads you never really knew if your ballot was counted.

With mail ballots, you get a second chance.

Under state law, supervisors must contact voters whose ballots have been flagged.

The later a ballot is flagged, the more likely it won’t be counted.

“If someone waits until the last minute to turn in their mail ballot, and there’s a problem, it’s going to be more difficult to cure,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.

Smith’s studies show it’s not just first time voters who have problems.

“If you are an experienced Republican voter and you are voting by mail, and you are doing so for the first time, you’re twice as likely to have your mail ballot rejected for a missing or mismatched signature,” said Smith. “You know, it’s like riding a bicycle then hopping on a Harley and think you are going to have great success.”

In the August primary, more than 33,000 mail ballots were not counted.

So far this year, more than five million mail ballots have been requested compared to the 2.7 million cast in 2016.

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