The headlines say a House election in Florida has been won by a mere five votes, 11,662 to 11,657, which is a remarkable piece of news. But here’s what those reports are missing: Nearly 1,400 mail ballots were thrown out for one reason or another. If this isn’t a warning about the perils of trusting your vote to the postman, it’s hard to know what would be.
The Nov. 2 election was a primary in the 20th Congressional District, a safe Democratic seat formerly held by Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April at age 84. After recounts and the typical arguing over some disputed ballots, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick was certified last week as the Democratic nominee with a five-vote victory. She will almost certainly prevail in the January special election.
Yet what a mess: 1,253 mail votes were tossed for missing the Election Day deadline, according to staff at Broward and Palm Beach counties. Of those, 294 were postmarked before Election Day, meaning these voters probably assumed they’d done everything right. Another 708 had missing or illegible postmarks, so there’s no way to know when they were mailed. That’s an alarming failure rate for the U.S. Postal Service.