FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — President Donald Trump, the nation’s most outspoken foe of mail voting, has returned his mail ballot for Tuesday’s Florida primary to the Palm Beach County elections office.
The ballots for Trump and first lady Melania Trump were returned Monday.
Also Monday, Trump continued his assault on the way mail voting operates. In a tweet, he criticized the use of drop boxes for mail ballots. That practice was expanded in Florida under changes signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Just two weeks ago, Trump praised Florida’s system of early voting, and DeSantis’ leadership.
On Monday, he tweeted that his complaint about drop-off locations. “Some states use ‘drop boxes’ for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots. So who is going to ‘collect’ the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country. Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!”
Florida now allows use of drop boxes at early voting locations leading up to elections. The ballots are collected by employees of the county supervisors of elections.
Democrats are planning a series of events in Florida and elsewhere in the country Tuesday to call attention to what U.S. Rep. Val Demings’ office called “the Trump administration’s campaign to sabotage” the Postal Service. The advisory for the Florida Democrat’s event said the agency “is a pillar of our democracy.”
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Broward-Palm Beach county Democrat, said by email that Republicans like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., “should explain why he supports the president’s efforts to dismantle the Postal Service and imperil our ability to vote.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has summoned members back to the Capitol to vote on legislation to shore up the Postal Service.
Democrats have been critical of moves made by the Trump-installed postmaster general. Under him, the agency has been cutting employee hours, dismantling mail sorting machines, and warning states that it might not be able to handle the expected high volume of mail votes.
The objective, Democrats have warned, is attempting to damage the Postal Service to thwart mail voting and aid Trump’s reelection.
Voters are turning to mail ballots to avoid having to vote in person during the coronavirus pandemic. Polling and mail ballot applications show that Democrats are far more likely to express interest in voting by mail this than Republicans.
On Monday afternoon, Trump said on Twitter that Democrats were “playing games” and positioned himself as the agency’s savior. “SAVE THE POST OFFICE!” he tweeted.
Rubio, in a telephone news conference sponsored by the Trump campaign, rejected the idea that Trump is trying to damage the Postal Service.
“We’re going to have an historic, an overwhelming amount of ballots that are going to be mailed in,” Rubio said.
Potential problems are caused by the expected surge in mail ballots and have “nothing to do with any nefarious activity on the part of the president or anyone else. It’s just a volume thing,” he said.
Rubio likened it to the surge of volume during the holiday season, when many people are mailing greeting cards. “If a greeting card arrives a couple of weeks late after the holidays, it’s embarrassing,” he said. If ballots arrive late, “that has real-world implications.”
The president and first lady have been registered Republican voters in Palm Beach County since last year, when the president announced he was changing his official residence after he got mad at his home state of New York.
They used mail ballots in the March presidential primary, and again for Tuesday’s local primary.
They didn’t actually vote by mail, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said.
The president and first lady used a procedure allowed under state law by which someone can have a representative bring an affidavit to the elections office and pick up a ballot for someone else. As long as a mail ballot is back in the elections office headquarters by 7 p.m. on Election Night — delivered by mail or in person — it is legally cast.
The president has been an outspoken critic of mail voting, insisting that it’s rife with fraud, even though there’s no evidence to support that claim.
In Florida, Republicans have been the biggest users — and the party’s candidates the biggest beneficiaries — since the state changed mail voting rules as part of the reforms that came after the disputed 2000 George W. Bush-Al Gore presidential election.
Florida voters can request a mail ballot without having to cite a reason. Under the old system, called absentee voting, someone had to have a reason, such as being out of town on Election Day,
After Trump spent months criticizing mail voting, Florida Republicans were showing reluctance to sign up for mail ballots this year — potentially hurting the president’s chances of winning Florida. So earlier this month he reversed course — as far as Florida is concerned — and said he thought mail voting was good in the Sunshine State.
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