In apparent reversal, Trump encourages Floridians to vote by mail

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 03: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. With enhanced federal unemployment benefits now expired, Trump administration officials and Democratic Congressional leaders continue to negotiate on an extension of the unemployment benefits and an additional coronavirus economic stabilization and relief package.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) via CNN.

After repeatedly seeking to discredit mail-in voting, President Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed Florida’s election system is “safe and secure” and encourages Floridians to vote by mail.

“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail! #MAGA,” he tweeted.

Mail-in ballots are are expected to be more widely used as a result of the pandemic.

He also floated delaying the election in a tweet last week that received bipartisan condemnation. The President does not have the power to do this — Congress does.

There is no evidence mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud. But the assertion was notable because it is an effort to sow doubt about the legitimacy about the election, now 91 days away.

“I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen,” Trump said at a Thursday news conference, during which he also called vote-by-mail a “disaster” and argued people should have to cast their votes in person.

Asked about the mixed messages, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said: “Well the President’s always said that absentee voting for a reason is different than mass mail-out voting like what Nevada is seeking to do, which leads to mass fraud.”

Again, there’s no evidence of widespread fraud with mail-in voting.

It’s unclear what Florida victory McEnany and Trump were referring to, but last month, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency petition for Democrat-led attempts in Florida to overturn a law preventing former felons from voting if they haven’t paid all their fines or restitution. That is not necessarily related to mail-in balloting.

Meanwhile, the President’s team is fighting to preserve aspects of mail-in voting they hope will offer Trump a strategic advantage. That has included a push in various states for policies such as enhanced signature matching, requirements for people to file an application before they receive a ballot and limits to when and where mail-in ballots will be counted — things election experts have said could lead to fewer votes being counted from groups that skew Democratic.

Some administration officials and Republican allies have expressed frustration at Trump’s rhetoric questioning the validity of mail-in voting behind closed doors — acknowledging that it will likely be necessary and perhaps even helpful for the President in some places.

In Florida, a recent CNN/SSRS poll found 59% of Democratic-leaning voters would rather cast mail ballots in the election versus 21% of Republican-leaning voters.

Trump’s reversal comes days after Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on a Trump campaign conference call that he had “no concerns” about mail-in voting in his state.

“We’ve been doing it a long time. I can’t speak for every state, I mean there are some states that are automatically mailing everybody a ballot, but our system is well established, it’s been used for a long time, we’ve frankly never had issues with it, generally speaking,” Rubio told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday.

Asked if he was the concerned the President’s rhetoric about mail-in voting will discourage his constituents, Rubio said: “I don’t think it will discourage them from voting. I know they might just end up voting on election day. That’s what we saw in 2016.”

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