Florida law allows election officials to start counting early in-person and mail-in ballots before Election Day. But social media posts falsely claim Florida counted all of its more than 7 million votes in five hours on Election Day and states that took longer committed “voter fraud.” Most states don’t allow vote counting to begin until Election Day or after polls close.
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8, media outlets such as the Associated Press called the Florida gubernatorial race, projecting that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis had defeated his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist.
The early announcement in Florida was possible because of the state’s election laws, which allow officials to start processing and counting all early votes and mail-in ballots as they are received before Election Day.
But a video on Instagram makes the false claim that Florida counted all of its votes on Election Day, and falsely claims that states that didn’t complete vote tabulation as quickly were committing “voter fraud.”
“Florida counted 7.5 million votes in five hours,” conservative commentator Kendall Bailey says in the video. “Other states are saying it might take till the end of the year to count 2 million votes. You’re fired! It’s voter fraud.”
Bailey also falsely claims it’s “illegal” for states to take that long to count votes, repeating similar claims about the timeliness of counting votes.
But, as we said earlier, election officials in Florida didn’t count all the ballots in one day, let alone in five hours.
Releasing the election results before the polls close is a felony.
Other states have laws that delay vote counting until Election Day or after the polls close, as we’ve written before.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 23 states that begin counting votes on Election Day before polls close, and 16 states that don’t begin counting ballots until after polls have closed.
Florida is one of 10 states, including Arizona, that begin counting mail ballots dropped off before Election Day. But, as we wrote, Arizona’s election workers received more than twice as many ballots on Election Day as they had in the previous four days combined. They weren’t able to start processing those ballots until after polls had closed.
Florida, however, ends early in-person voting three days before the election and doesn’t allow mail-in ballots to be dropped off at voting precincts on Election Day — though voters can take ballots to their local elections office. Election workers in Florida had three days before Nov. 8 to process and count ballots without the addition of any new in-person early ballots.
In 19 states, mailed-in ballots that arrive after Election Day will still be counted if they are postmarked on time.
Counting Ballots in Florida
This year there were 5,058,834 early voters in Florida, with the majority being mail-in ballots, according to the U.S. Elections Project. On Election Day, there were 2,725,864 in-person votes cast, according to Florida’s Division of Elections. This would bring the total count to 7,784,698 votes in Florida for the election.
We asked officials how many ballots were counted before Election Day, but we didn’t get a response.
Early voting in Florida for the 2022 election was held from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5. The deadline for voter registration was Oct. 11.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day in Florida. Mail-in ballots must be returned no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day to the Supervisor of Elections Office in order to be counted. Overseas voters have a 10-day extension for general elections.
The counting of early votes and mail-in ballots can begin in Florida after the public testing of automatic tabulating equipment — which happens no more than 25 days before early voting starts. This means by the time ballots arrive at precincts, they can be processed and counted.
The results of all early voting and mail-in ballots that have been counted by the end of the early voting period are uploaded into the county’s election management system by 7 p.m. on the day before the election, according to state law. The results can’t be made public until after the polls close on Election Day.
County election supervisors are required by law to post the number of mail-in ballots that have been received and the number of mail-in ballots that remain uncounted starting at 7 p.m. on Election Day and to update the count at least once every hour while counting the ballots.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Elder, Elise. “DeSantis wins 2022 Florida governor’s race by largest margin in 40 years.” WUFT.org. 8 Nov 2022.
The 2022 Florida Statutes. “ELECTORS AND ELECTIONS – VOTING METHODS AND PROCEDURE.” Leg.state.fl.us. Accessed 16 Nov 2022.
The 2022 Florida Statutes. “ELECTORS AND ELECTIONS – CONDUCTING ELECTIONS AND ASCERTAINING THE RESULTS.” Leg.state.fl.us. Accessed 16 Nov 2022.
“Florida 2022 Early Vote.” RPubs. Updated 8 Nov 2022.
Izaguirre, Anthony. “Ron DeSantis wins governor’s race in Florida.” Associated Press. 8 Nov 2022.
Spencer, Saranac Hale. “Ballot Processing Continues in Closely Watched States Amid Unfounded Claims of Fraud.” FactCheck.org. 11 Nov 2022.
Spencer, Saranac Hale. “Counting Mail-In Ballots Delays Results, But Doesn’t Denote Fraud.” FactCheck.org. 7 Nov 2022.
National Conference of State Legislatures. “Table 16: When Absentee/Mail Ballot Processing and Counting Can Begin.” NCSL.org. Updated 17 May 2022.
Florida Divisions of Elections. “Vote-by-Mail Request & Early Voting Statistics.” Accessed 16 Nov 2022.