LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays said 2020 is breaking records when it comes to the number of voters wishing to cast their ballot by mail.
According to the latest numbers Monday afternoon, 76,073 voters of the now more than 261,475 registered to vote have requested a mail-in ballot. That’s about 29%.
Moreover, Hays said in 2016 only 41,244 voters requested mail-in ballots which means this year is an 84% increase compared to the last Presidential Election.
“That’s a record number for Lake County,” Hays said. “Everything this year in the vote-by-mail department is a record. No question.”
Outside of the Supervisor of Elections office, there was a steady stream of cars and people dropping off their ballots inside their ballot box, while others waited to get buzzed inside to hand-deliver their ballot in person, like Dorothy Smith, 87.
“I decided that I wanted to make sure my vote was counted,” she said. “Because I really don’t trust the post office right now.”
Hays said there is a growing concern in the election integrity but tells voters not to worry.
“Here in Florida, I feel very, very comfortable in the security of the vote-by-mail process and in the validation of the signature matching,” Hays said. “In fact, last week we had a conference call with the post office and they are doing everything that they can do to handle the ballots properly.”
Hays adds the ballot box in front of the elections office is monitored by not one - but three security cameras and they empty the box almost every hour. Inside, the ballots go into a room under lock and key where they get their signatures validated and where they stay until they are ready to be counted.
“Right now our No. 1 priority is to make sure that we verify all the signatures as quickly as possible so we have as much time for these voters to resolve any mis-match issues with the signatures,” Hays said. “Then on the 14th of October we will begin the actual open of the ballots and tabulation that will continue right on to Election Day.”
Hays said the deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Oct. 24 and they must be returned to Supervisor of Elections office by 7 p.m. on Election night. He did say the increase of mail-in ballots could delay election results.
“One county in 2016 received 10,000 ballots on Election day from the post office, there is no way they would have gotten to them on election night but every one was counted,” Hays said. “The late arrival of ballots can delay the publication of the results even though they arrive late, they still need to have every signature verified.”
It’s why he says to get your ballots in by “yesterday."
Here’s a breakdown of what other Central Florida counties are seeing in mail-in ballots this year:
2020 - Requested: 85,194; Returned: 16,515
2016 - Requested: 45,426; Returned: 38,016
2020 - Request: 290,232 vote-by-mail, an increase by 24.6% and growing
2016 - 218,817 vote-by-mail ballots requested, 159,512 ballots were returned and counted
2020 - 158,046 mailed as of Oct. 3
2016 - 93,183 mailed; 75,528 returned
2020 - Requested: 89,728; Returned: 20,098 as of Oct. 7
2016 - Requested: 59,555; Returned: 45,533
News 6 reached out to every local supervisor of elections office about their mail-in ballot totals and is still waiting to hear back from some. This story will be updated with more responses as they come in.