Florida officials claim redemption from state's troubled Election Day history

This year, elections officials and the governor said Florida shined bright on Election Day after years in the shadows of the 2000 presidential recount and issues in South Florida during the 2018 midterm elections.

Tuesday was widely considered a success for the state’s elections process.

“I think the contrast in how a tough battleground state like Florida handled the election versus what we’re seeing in some of these other states. I think it’s dramatic,” said Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday.

The pandemic forced mail-in voting to become a big part of the election nationwide, an option Florida has had for over a decade. University of South Florida political professor J. Edwin Benton said vote-by-mail is the future.

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“It’s convenience. It allows more people to vote and vote conveniently, and it was a matter of time. It was going to happen, it did and I think we’ll see it expand extensively over the years to come,” said Benton.

How well the state processed those mail-in ballots and early votes this year is getting attention.

In Florida, mail-in ballots and early voting are counted ahead of time then posted as soon as polls close. But as the nation saw from Tuesday, some states had to wait until Election Day to start counting everything, so results take longer to report.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said Florida was a shining example for the future.

“I think Florida very well could be a model and probably is a model,” said Latimer.

Latimer also serves as president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. He said this year marks a positive shift for how others view Florida elections.

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“So I’m hoping the narrative going forward is going to be ‘Hey, you guys had a great 2020 election. You nailed it. Is the next one going to be as good?’ And they’re going to get a resounding yes from me,” said Latimer.

It’s good news for Florida’s reputation after years in the shadows of elections problems in 2000 and 2018.

“So instead of us being the center of a 'Bush versus Gore' in 2020, we’re now being looked at as the state that did it right and the state that these other states should emulate,” said Governor DeSantis.

The Hillsborough County supervisor of elections said it's now going to figure out what could make the process even better in the future. Latimer said help from poll workers and the community really helped make elections go smoothly across the state on Tuesday.