Gov. DeSantis says Florida in 'good spot' for elections

FILE - Mail-in ballots are processed to be sent out to voters at the Miami-Dade Election Department headquarters on August 8, 2018 in Doral, Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday backed the efforts of the state’s elections chief and county elections supervisors after President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of postponing the November general election because of his aversion to “mail-in” ballots.

“I think that Florida will be in a good spot to go,” DeSantis said during an appearance at Space Florida headquarters in Merritt Island.

DeSantis, who had attended the morning launch of the Mars-bound Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter at Cape Canaveral, was asked about elections issues because Trump in a morning tweet continued his attack on mail-in-voting and the potential legitimacy of the election.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump tweeted. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

The general election date is set by federal law for the Tuesday after the first Monday in November --- Nov. 3 this year. Trump would need to get an act of Congress to move the date, which is highly unlikely, especially with the U.S. House under Democratic control.

DeSantis, who said he hadn’t seen Trump’s tweet, defended his White House ally, saying there is some “confusion” regarding plans in some states to mail ballots to every voter and Florida’s method of requiring voters to request ballots in the mail.

“There's some people that say you should just mass-mail ballots to every address regardless of whether they request it or anything,” DeSantis said. “And I do think that that creates some problems in terms of potential for fraud. That's not what we do in Florida.”

DeSantis said the difference is that Florida’s process requires verification of the voters.

“I think that is an important check to make sure that, ‘OK, you've requested your ballot.’” DeSantis said. “They send it to you. And then, obviously, they'll wait until you receive it and then make sure that you have it. But to just have ballots flying out there willy-nilly, I do think that that would be a mistake.”

Trump has appeared to use the term “absentee” voting to approve of processes such as the Florida system, while railing against other processes that he describes as “mail-in” voting.

Florida in 2002 first authorized no-excuse absentee voting, which does not require voters to declare reasons to receive ballots. In 2016, state lawmakers switched the name of absentee ballots to "vote-by-mail" ballots.

Lawmakers switched the name from "absentee" to "mail-in ballots were called absentee ballots until election changes in 2002 that no longer required voters to declare reasons, such as being sick or out-of-town, to receive ballots.

The Republican Party of Florida has sent out mailers imploring voters to request an “absentee ballot,” with part of the copy including recent tweets by Trump, such as a June 28 tweet that said, “absentee ballots are fine.”

Omitted from the GOP mailers is the rest of the June 28 tweet, which said: “Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. 19% of Ballots a FRAUD!”

Heading into the Aug. 18 primary elections in Florida, Democrats have completed 440,776 ballots, as their party has stressed the importance this year of voting by mail, at least in part because of the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans, who historically have had an advantage in vote-by-mail balloting in Florida, have submitted 348,608 ballots.

Florida has 13.7 million registered voters. Including ballots already cast, Democrats have been provided more than 1.8 million vote-by-mail ballots, while nearly 1.3 million have been sent to Republicans.

Voters can also cast ballots during in-person early voting and at polling places on Election Day.

DeSantis said the state will police for election fraud and that Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Florida’s chief elections’ official, has gathered resources for people to safely work the polls.

He noted that some poll workers backed out of presidential primary elections in March because of the coronavirus pandemic but said people will be available to ensure Election Day polling locations are fully operating.

“All the supervisors of elections have been planning for this for a long time. The secretary of state's been planning it for a long time. And I think Florida will be ready to go,” DeSantis said.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.