Vote-by-mail ballot requests surge across Central Florida

Vote-by-mail requests are very high in several Central Florida counties this election.

“I just want to make sure it’s counted,” said Amanda Hooper, who voted by mail.

Several people dropped their vote-by-mail ballots off in person at the Lake County Supervisor of Elections Office on Thursday.

“Just because of everything that’s said on the news,” added Gilda Nelson, who also voted by mail. “So, I figured we live close enough that we can drop it at the ballot box.”

Lake County’s Supervisor of Elections, Alan Hays, is not surprised to see this.

“There’s so much lack of trust, shall we say, in the reliability of the postal system,” Hays said. “In our case, we’re not aware of any failure on the part of the postal system to get mail to us here in Lake County.’

There have been 75,000 vote-by-mail ballots requested in Lake County. That’s far more than the 60,000 anticipated.

“We have blown past that 60,000 but that’s okay,” Hays said. “We’re here to serve the people and that’s what we’re going to do.”

He started mailing the ballots to voters on Thursday.

RELATED: How vote-by-mail works in Florida

“Monday they started coming back in,” Hays said. “We’ve had already 10,000 returned to us.”

Lake County isn't the only one seeing this surge in vote-by-mail requests. There have been more than 280,000 vote-by-mail ballots requested in Orange County and 113,000 in Seminole County. The Seminole County Supervisor of Elections said that's about a third of the county's registered voters.

In Lake County, each ballot is checked by a machine to make sure the signature on it matches what is on file. By law, the staff doesn't start counting the votes until Oct. 14.

With the pandemic bringing in all of these vote-by-mail ballots, Hays said he had to double his staff and make the room where the ballots are kept larger to accommodate all the mail-in ballots.

“Hopefully we will be able to stay on pace and keep up with the ballots that are coming back,” Hays said. “We certainly plan to.”

The deadline to request a vote by mail ballot is October 24. You have to make sure your ballot makes it back at the Supervisors of Election Office before 7 p.m. on Election Day.