In Florida, a state where the steady rise of mail voting has dramatically transformed the campaign season over the last 20 years, the novel coronavirus could fast-forward the evolution of elections.
Elections offices in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — home to more than a quarter of Florida’s 13.2 million voters — are preparing to send vote-by-mail registration forms to every voter in those counties amid worries that the virus will disrupt in-person voting this summer and fall.
Elections supervisors and political organizations around the state asked Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis weeks ago to provide flexibility under state law to help them administer the upcoming elections. They’re still waiting for an answer, and in the meantime are widely encouraging voting at home — even as President Donald Trump, a Florida resident, has called for restrictions….
Pushed by political parties and candidates, mail ballots have slowly grown in popularity in Florida since state lawmakers made them universally available in 2002. In recent elections, about one-third of the vote has come from mail ballots and another third from in-person early voting sites, with the remaining third cast on Election Day. That’s turned what was once a single day of voting into a month-long marathon, forcing campaigns to alter strategies and spend money and resources on courting mail voters.
In the March 17 presidential preference primary — when voters arrived at polling places wearing masks and gloves to help ward off the spread of the virus — mail voting spiked. Fullyhalf the votes cast in that election were by mail ballot.
With the virus not under control and predictions about when it will be suppressed still uncertain, election supervisors are now bracing for similar mail voting percentages in August, November and beyond.