Don't believe Donald Trump's hype about a "rigged" election. Heading into the weekend, more than 5 million Floridians already had voted. It's likely more than half the vote will be in before Tuesday. That reflects three things: State and local elections officials have made voting convenient. The elections process has been open and orderly. And voters have confidence that their ballots are secure and will be counted. This show of competence and faith should help debunk any myths about fraud and chaos. Voters have every reason to turn out in heavy numbers and be assured the election is not rigged.
It's no coincidence that the ugliest presidential campaign in memory has fueled fear and cynicism about the legitimacy of the outcome of Tuesday's election. Though that's largely due to Trump's unfounded claims, the increased use of mail and early voting, isolated irregularities with ballots and the experience in Florida with the 2000 election recount have all helped raise concerns. Elections officials have been busy dispelling them as they explain the security of the ballots and the integrity of the vote count.
As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Bousquet reported last week, local elections supervisors are addressing all sorts of questions, both reasonable and outlandish, as voters call or visit early polling places to cast a ballot. If I skip a race, will the rest of my ballot count? (Yes.) Shouldn't the vote machine give me a receipt? (No — ballots in Florida are secret.) Are provisional ballots always counted? (Yes.) Can ballots lost in the mail be replaced? (Yes — but only one will count.)
"We just keep trying to dispel these myths, voter by voter," said Gerri Kramer, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.
This is no small job, with local elections officials in Florida's 67 counties administering nearly 13 million registered voters in the state. But it also speaks to the preparedness of the elections process at both the state and local levels. In Tallahassee, more than 15 state workers field voter fraud issues and handle voter assistance hotlines. In counties across the state, local elections staff manage early polling places, process mail-in ballots and ready thousands of Election Day voting precincts. The work is performed methodically, the machines are tested, and any contested ballots are reviewed by local canvassing boards. Florida does not wing it on Election Day, and it's important for voters to know the facts and to have the confidence that their choices will count.
Keeping perspective helps, too. For all the publicity surrounding the 2000 election in Florida, the issue was not whether the voting was "rigged" but rather how the state should interpret and count disputed ballots. And despite the clamor this year over voter fraud, only a few isolated incidents have surfaced, and one involving five ballots in Seminole County was caught by local elections officers. Any problems that happen may be human error, and elections supervisors have procedures to spot and correct that.
Voters have every reason to trust the elections process and every reason to reject the fearmongering that is meant to suppress the vote and erode confidence in the results — particularly if Trump loses. Elections supervisors have worked hard over the past decade to make voting easy and secure. There's no excuse not to exercise this democratic right, in whatever manner, by Election Day on Tuesday. As the nation's third-largest state, Florida needs to ensure its voice is heard to the fullest extent possible.