Postal problems may affect outcome of District 20 primary

And what if a tie is in the cards after the final votes are counted Friday?

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is just five votes ahead of Dale Holness before the final overseas ballots will be counted Friday in the District 20 Democratic primary. The race could be over if not for dozens of ballots that didn't arrive to elections officials in time.

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. – The winner of the Democratic nomination for Congress in District 20 will be determined Friday when a handful of overseas and military ballots are counted. But the winner might already be known if hundreds of mail-in ballots had arrived in time to be counted.

So why didn’t they?

Voters who were late putting their ballots in the mail are partly to blame. But it appears the real culprit is the U.S. Postal Service.

The U.S. Post Office in Opa-locka handles mail for much of South Florida, including mail-in ballots destined for the Broward County elections department.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott came to this Opa-locka post office shortly before the election to make sure vote-by-mail ballots were a top priority. Apparently, they weren’t.

A total of 287 ballots postmarked and stamped before election day arrived too late to be counted.

Last-minute voters are to blame for some late-arriving ballots, but it looks like most of the blame belongs to the postal service, which is in terrible shape, losing billions of dollars a year and often delivering mail late — or not at all. It declined sharply under President Donald Trump and hasn’t improved under President Joe Biden.

Local 10 News reached out several times Thursday to the Opa-locka post office manager and public information officer. They didn’t call us back. It is a holiday.

The candidates in the Democratic primary are in a dead heat. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is just five votes ahead of Dale Holness.

The winner faces Republican nominee Jason Mariner in a January special election to fill the seat of the late Alcee Hastings. The Democratic nominee will be heavily favored in the deeply blue district.

On Friday afternoon, elections officials and the Broward canvassing board will open and tabulate the last uncounted ballots.

As of Thursday, there are three overseas ballots and 11 from uniformed overseas citizens.

And here’s an arcane factoid: If the candidates are tied after all eligible ballots are counted, the secretary of state says they’ll be asked to pick a card from a deck and the highest number wins.

Does one vote make a difference? You bet it does.

About the Author:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.