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Florida’s electoral system, which has been the backbone of political jokes for nearly two full decades, was repealed this week as President Trump seems to indicate that it is the only state that feels confident it can run a system of voting by mail.
Whether you call it Voting by Mail or Absentee Voting, Florida’s electoral system is “Safe and Secure, Tested and True,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Whether you call it Voting by Mail or Absentee Voting, Florida’s electoral system is safe and secure, tested, and true. The Florida voting system has been cleaned up (we beat the Democrats’ attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage everyone to ask for a vote and a postal vote! #MAGA
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2020
Similarly, in a White House briefing Tuesday, he said the state “really has a great system of absent ballots,” noting the first time he had expressed confidence in the state’s ability to administer large-scale voting since the pandemic hit the United States in spring.
However, political experts say his compliments were less on the state of Sunshine’s ability to keep the election safe and more on his focus on political reality: he can’t win the state if Republicans there feel they don’t can vote by mail.
“Florida is an absolute must for Trump, and everyone knows it, and he knows it,” said Susan McManus, a professor of political science at the University of South Florida. “And if he suddenly, by mail-order attack, prevents a significant group of voters in Florida from not going to the polls, that’s not good for his chances of winning.”
Those in Trump’s inner circle shared similar concerns, according to The Daily Beast.
McManus said Trump was also facing concessions from Republicans in the state, which alerted him to the fact that Democrats were taking advantage of his comments and building a significant lead in the number of requests to vote by mail.
As of Wednesday, more than 600,000 more Democrats had asked for ballots in the mail from Republicans, according to Michael MacDonald of the University of Florida. By comparison, in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Republican Ron DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillam by less than 50,000 votes.
Similarly, a recent CNN / SSRS survey found that 59% of voters who are “lean democrats” said they would prefer to vote by mail, compared to only 21% of Republican-dressed voters.
“This is a state in which elections are won by only half or one percent,” McManus said.
The president and his allies have spent much of the past few months abusing many forms of postal voting systems, from states that vote by mail to all registered voters to states that only planned to send registered ballot applications to registered voters. .
In an interview with the NPR earlier this summer, for example, Attorney General William Barr said he was pleased that states allowed mail ballots for cases where someone would “travel the world”, but that allowing universal access to voting on mail would lead to violent fraud.
Yet Florida has allowed voters to run ballots in the mail without apology for more than a decade since 2002. And Republicans have traditionally taken advantage of this policy, according to Mac Stipanovic, a longtime Republican strategist in Florida who recently left the GOP because of Trump.
“Bulletins in absentia,” Stipanovic told Greg Allen of NPR earlier this year, “are usually friends of Republicans in Florida.”
The deadline for Florida voters to request a postal vote is October 22. The question, according to MacDonald, is whether Trump’s recent agreement on the security of the Florida voting system will help make that happen again.