Gov. DeSantis sidesteps Trump’s call to delay November election

Gov. Ron Desantis traveled to Merritt Island on July 30, 2020, to view a rocket launch and meet with space industry leaders. Credit: Screenshot

Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t directly respond to President Trump’s call Thursday to delay the Nov. 3 general election because of the COVID-19 pandemic and avowed that Florida has a system in place to vote by mail without potential for fraud.

Asked about the comment the president made via Twitter, DeSantis said he hadn’t seen it.

“He asked for the election to be delayed?” the governor said, during an event in Merritt Island.

But he said officials in the state would monitor the election for fraud. “We’re going to police that, but I think Florida will be in a good spot to go.”

Here is the president’s tweet:

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

DeSantis turned the discussion to what he sees as the potential for trouble with universal voting by mail, as some states handle elections.

“There are some people who say you should just mass mail ballots to every address regardless of whether they requested anything, and I do think that creates some problems with potential for fraud,” DeSantis said.

“That’s not what we do in Florida. Florida has vote by mail. You can request a mail ballot. It is sent to you. There’s verification, and it’s a process that I think has worked. So, I support Florida’s system. I would not support just mass mailing everyone a ballot regardless of whether they’ve asked for it, because I do think that that ends up creating avenues for fraud,” he continued.

“To just have ballots flying out there willy-nilly, I do think that would be a mistake.”

A Florida Phoenix story this spring said that elections supervisors have been urging voters to request mail-in ballots to ensure every valid vote is counted as the presidential election looms.

The Phoenix story also said: “Voting by mail is a safe way to go. It’s a secure process in Florida. In my 26 years of elections experience, I’ve seen no cases of fraud,” said Tammy Jones, longtime elections supervisor in Levy County and immediate past president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections.

Additionally, the state reached a settlement recently with civil- and voting-rights organizations clarifying the rules for access to early voting and voting by mail, as the Phoenix reported here. And Florida Republicans long have used the vote-by-mail system to marshal their voters.

DeSantis did allow that in some counties poll workers pulled out with short notice during the presidential preference primaries in March.

“We’re cognizant of that. Now, I think that by November, hopefully, we’ll be in a different spot than we are in terms of the coronavirus pandemic. But there’s going to be a lot of people that can be brought to bear to make sure that these polling sites are open, running well.”

As of the latest Florida Department of Health report on Thursday, the number of new positive test results the day before was 9,956, with 253 Florida resident deaths. The rate of positive tests was 12 percent. That brought the total Florida caseload thus far to 461,379, with 6,586 deaths.

DeSantis was in Merritt Island to view the blast-off of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket and to meet with space industry executives and area lawmakers.

He staged a ceremonial bill-signing of HB 717, which loosens the bonding authority of Space Florida, a state agency that promotes the development of the space industry. The governor formally signed on June 27.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.