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Thousands of FL Ballots Not Counted    12/11 06:18

   TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida officials say thousands of mailed ballots 
were not counted because they were delivered too late to state election offices.

   The Department of State late last week informed a federal judge that 6,670 
ballots were mailed ahead of the Nov. 6 election but were not counted because 
they were not received by Election Day. The tally prepared by state officials 
includes totals from 65 of Florida's 67 counties. The two counties yet to 
report their totals are Palm Beach, a Democratic stronghold in south Florida, 
and Polk in central Florida.

   Three statewide Florida races, including the contest for governor, went to 
state-mandated recounts because the margins were so close.

   In the battle for agriculture commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried won her 
election by 6,753 votes. Republican Gov. Rick Scott ousted incumbent Democrat 
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by slightly more than 10,000 votes.

   Under Florida law, ballots mailed inside the United States must reach 
election offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Overseas ballots are counted if 
they are received up to 10 days after the election.

   A group called VoteVets Action Fund along with two Democratic organizations 
filed a lawsuit a few days after the 2017 election that argued the ballots 
should count if they were mailed before Election Day.

   But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the restriction was reasonable and 
that Florida election officials have a right to establish deadlines. He turned 
down an emergency request that all properly postmarked ballots received up to 
10 days after the election be counted.

   The lawsuit, however, is still pending and Walker asked that state election 
officials report how many ballots were mailed before Election Day but 
ultimately were not counted.

   Walker was the judge involved in a half-dozen lawsuits that were filed 
following the razor-thin elections in Florida.

   In a separate lawsuit filed last month, Walker gave voters extra time to fix 
their mail-in ballots if they were not counted because their signature on their 
ballot envelope did not match the one on file with local election officials.

   State officials testified in court that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were 
set aside because local officials decided the signatures on did not match. The 
Department of State last week informed Walker that his ruling resulted in 637 
votes being counted in the final totals.


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