Florida 'well-situated' on mail-in ballots, secretary of state insists

The same day President Donald Trump shredded voting by mail during a rally in Phoenix, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee issued assurances about the state’s absentee-ballot process.

“Our state, I believe, is very well-situated to have a secure and effective vote-by-mail process,” Lee told members of the Economic Club of Florida on Tuesday.

Floridians have had the option of “no-excuse” voting by mail for nearly two decades. Republicans consistently have relied on mail-in ballots as part of their strategy as they have dominated Democrats in races for the Legislature and statewide offices.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats also have made voting by mail a priority for the upcoming elections. Left-leaning groups have filed lawsuits in Florida pushing for expanded vote-by-mail procedures.

County elections officials also are urging voters to request mail-in ballots, as they seek to avoid long lines and implement physical-distancing measures to minimize the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

But Trump continues to make mail-in ballots a flashpoint in his reelection campaign, calling them a “disaster for our country” during a Phoenix rally on Tuesday.

“Who’s getting them? How are they delivered? Who’s not getting them? Think of it. It's going to be fraud all over the place,” Trump said.

Trump, a Florida resident who consistently has voted by mail, appeared to be singling out states that are initiating absentee-ballot procedures this year.

“With mail-in ballots, you introduce something in the middle of an election year, and you have something where it's very complex,” he said. “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country.  And we cannot let this happen.  They want it to happen so badly.”

Lee, who was appointed as Florida’s chief elections officer last year by Trump ally Gov. Ron DeSantis, didn’t contradict Trump, but tried to offer an explanation for his anxiety.

“Some of what you’re hearing, those generalized concerns, may be more applicable to other states that aren’t as experienced with administering vote-by-mail as part of an election and don’t have some of those safeguards in place to ensure the accuracy of those ballots,” she said.

Florida, however, is “fortunate” to have been using mail-in ballots “for a while now,” Lee said.

“Our process in Florida, by statute, is one that is very carefully considered and … includes checks and balances to ensure that a ballot that is sent from a supervisor of elections is going to a registered voter who made that request,” she said.