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Florida Democrats Urge Governor to Adopt Universal Vote-by-Mail to Prevent Covid-19 from Suppressing the Vote

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Florida, a perennial presidential battleground state, lets voters ask for a mail-in ballot so they can vote at home.

Now, though, some state Democratic leaders want the Sunshine State to automatically mail registered voters a mail-in ballot for the next two elections.

The proposal is an attempt to prevent Covid-19 from becoming a form of voter suppression.

"We don't know what the reality will be when it comes time to vote," state Rep. Richard Stark (D-Weston) told OpEd News. "There has to be a contingency plan worked out now of what happens if we are still with stay at home orders. If that's the case then there may need to be all vote-by-mail for safety."

Evidence mounts about the health threat to voters if officials force them to go to polling stations to vote. The surgeon general for Florida said Monday that residents may have to continue practicing physical distancing for a year or more. click here

Voters also know that two poll workers in Broward County tested positive for the Coronavirus, including one worker who handled voters' driver licenses. click here

With this reality in mind, some political leaders in Florida are open to vote-by-mail but promote a two-step process, suggesting the government should mail registered voters a form so the voter can request a vote-by-mail ballot. In Broward County, the Supervisor of Elections announced Monday that he plans to send such a form to registered voters who have not already requested a vote-by-mail ballot. click here

And Democratic and Republican leaders -- including the president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections -- contend the state should expand the number of early voting days.

President Trump, a newly minted Florida resident, has inserted himself into the debate. The president, who voted on a mail-in ballot for the March 17 Republican presidential preference election, says mailing a ballot to every registered voter is a recipe for massive fraud. click here

To date, the president has not offered any proof to back up his charges. And Republican election officials in Western states who have worked with vote-by-mail for some time refute arguments that voter fraud is a problem.

Advocates say letting people vote at home with mail-in ballots will protect their health in an era of mandated physical distancing which may continue or resume in the coming months. They also insist it will prevent Covid-19 from becoming a form of voter suppression.

The Democratic leader of the Florida House of Representatives advanced these arguments in an April 7 letter to GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. Rep. Kionne McGhee, (D-Miami), contends that Florida, the third most populous state in the nation, with 29 electoral votes, should promote safety and democracy for the upcoming August primary and November general elections.

McGhee wrote that "This year, voters are set to elect a president and congressional, state, and local officials, but the process has already been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing some states to postpone their primaries. This public health crisis threatens to keep people at home out of fear that they may come in contact with someone who has been infected."

McGhee continued, "News reports that some Florida poll workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus will only exacerbate that fear." His solution? Florida already has a "robust" vote-by-mail system which it can ramp up to deal with the possible continuing health emergency.

Helen Ferre, the spokeswoman for Gov. DeSantis, did not respond to an email request for comment on the letter.

But state Rep. Joseph Geller (D-Aventura) told OpEd News that there are ways to get ready for the August and November elections, even though "a return to Tallahassee for a Special Session is problematic at this point. I have asked for us to be allowed to vote electronically, but that request has been denied."

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Steve Schneider lives in Florida. He writes articles for Humor Times, Democracy Chronicles, The Satirist and OpEd News.

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