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Florida Elections Supervisors Warn Winners Likely Won't Be Known Election Night

Elections Supervisors say officials likely won't be finished counting mail in votes by the end of election night.
Elections Supervisors say officials likely won't be finished counting mail in votes by the end of election night.

With less than a month until the presidential election, supervisors of elections across the state are warning the public not to give too much weight to election night results. More people are voting by mail, so officials say it will likely to take longer to get those votes counted and to have a clear picture of who the winner may be.

On the night of Nov. 3, election results will be pouring in from all over the country. As the results begin to paint a picture of the possible winner, some people might think those numbers are concrete. But the figures gathered election night are never the final results. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says voters should be aware of that.

“Our focus is on getting this right, not getting it done as fast as possible to satisfy all the voices out there clamoring for instantaneous results. You can’t have perfection instantaneously," Earley says.

Marion County Supervisor Wesley Wilcox is expecting an historic amount of mail-in ballots to arrive at supervisors' offices on Election Day. Those ballots take a longer time to process than ballots cast in person. Wilcox ran into that issue during the state’s primary election.

“I got almost 1,000 ballots dropped at my office on election day," Wilcox says. "Which takes a massive amount of handling because we’ve got to verify they’ve not voted somewhere else, their signature matches what we have on file, the envelopes have to be opened."

Final results differing from election night predictions is nothing new. During the 2018 election, Florida Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell claimed victory the night of the election. He was ahead by around 41,000 votes. But as more votes were tabulated, he ended up losing the race to current Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried who won by less than 6,000 votes. Earley urges people to be careful when making projections.

“I would not make projections until you see what the percentage of ballots tabulated is, and get some kind of an understanding what is still out there to be tabulated," Earley says.

This year's races could be just as close. Official results from the 67 counties in Florida are due to the state Nov. 15. The state’s official results are then finalized by Nov. 17.

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Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.