Thousands of voters in Pasco County and across the state opened their mailboxes this weekend to find a flier from the Gov. Rick Scott campaign telling them their absentee ballots should have arrived. Yet, there were no absentee ballots waiting for them.
“As of 7:30 this morning, we’ve been getting phone calls from all over the state, everyone wondering where their absentee ballots were,” said Brian Corley, Pasco County’s supervisor of elections.
Except the lack of absentee ballots was not an oversight by elections officials across the state. Instead, it was an oversight from the Scott campaign — by law, absentee ballots can’t even be dropped into the mail until Sept. 30. That means most people won’t legally receive them until later in the week.
“It’s a little frustrating because it causes confusion,” Corley said. “My staff is already getting phone calls this morning with the obvious question, ‘Where’s my ballot?’ And we trained our call center staff to politely explain that the good folks at (Scott’s) Let’s Get to Work committee got that wrong, and we can’t legally send out those ballots until tomorrow.”
What’s even more frustrating for Corley is that it’s not the first time the Scott campaign made this mistake. Similar fliers were sent to voters’ homes ahead of the August primary, informing them they should’ve already received their absentee ballots despite the fact they weren’t legally allowed to even be distributed yet.
And in the end, many people don’t remember who made what mistake, Corley said, only that they didn’t get their absentee ballot when they thought they should have.
“It’s not rocket science, and accuracy is very important to what we do,” Corley said. “It erodes confidence in the voting system, and it gets my Irish temper up.”
Scott campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz didn’t directly address the problems with the fliers, but instead encouraged people to get out and vote by any means possible.
“Voting by mail is important, and we hope that all voters will receive and return their vote-by-mail ballots promptly,” she said, in a statement. “With his strong record of job creation and record investments in education, we’re confident voters will cast their vote-by-mail ballots for Rick Scott.”
Scott is in a tight race with former governor Charlie Crist, who Scott succeeded in 2011.
Corley is excited about sending those absentee ballots out, however. Pasco alone will distribute more than 50,000 of them — far more than the 10,000 that typically went out in past elections. During the primary, only about 42 percent of them were returned.
However, because voters could request ballots a couple years ahead, Corley is hoping that some traditional presidential election voters might actually participate in the less popular mid-term elections if they actually get a ballot in the mail.
“Well, 42 percent is obviously not good, but it wasn’t for lack of effort,” Corley said. “They would get fliers and phone calls, bud sadly, that just wasn’t enough before to get people pumped up to vote. And these are a lot of local elections, which should be more important to them than anything else.”
Voters have until 7 p.m. on election day, Nov. 4, to return their ballot, in order for it to be counted. Pasco also will have early voting available beginning Oct. 25. For more information on voting, visit PascoVotes.com.