Florida GOP Pushes Absentee Ballots Despite Trump Attacks on Mail-In Voting

Florida Republican congressional candidates appear to be continuing to call on voters to request absentee ballots, which would see voters cast their ballots by mail, despite President Donald Trump's clear opposition to mail-in voting.

Photos of Florida "Trump Victory" flyers published on social media appear to show Republican voters being asked to "request your absentee ballot today."

Meanwhile, local broadcaster WFTV 9 recently aired images of individual campaign flyers from GOP candidate Bill Olson, a U.S. Navy veteran running to represent Florida's 9th Congressional District, calling on voters to cast their absentee ballots.

This ia photo of a mail flyer from the Trump campaign in Florida. Also a state where all voters can vote mail in/ absentee.
They're certainly encouraging it here for GOP voters. pic.twitter.com/5orsD6gjHc

— Hoot-n-Nanny🦉🦉 (@hawklyf49) July 14, 2020

In a statement shared with Newsweek, Olson said he was "encouraging my supporters to vote however they feel comfortable."

"I trust Florida's system for absentee and mail-in ballots. It's a system that has worked for years and is trustworthy," he said.

However, Olson said he was "flatly against sending out millions of ballots to unverified voter rolls."

"Florida is targeted, you have to ask for an absentee ballot, that's an affirmative process. Plus, It's been my experience here in Florida that there is no problem maintaining social distancing while voting. Early voting is going on now, just like normal," he said.

"There's plenty of time before the election to ask for an absentee ballot if you do not want to go physically to the polls. There's no need to send out millions of ballots with no control on who gets them, or who actually votes. Recipe for fraud, abuse, and disaster."

While Trump and other Republicans have suggested that there is a difference between absentee ballots and mail-in voting, however, there is no major distinction.

Different states may use alternate terms, but the reality is that just about all absentee ballots are effectively mail-in ballots, aside from the rare ballot submitted by fax.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been fierce debate over whether mail-in voting should be used as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the upcoming November election.

With the virus spread through being spread through respiratory droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, limiting in-person contact, as well as contact with contaminated surfaces is a key way to control the spread of COVID-19.

Despite widespread calls for the use of mail-in ballots in the upcoming presidential election, however, Trump and other White House officials have remained staunchly against the measure, with the president raising previously debunked concerns around voter fraud on Friday.

"Mail-In Ballot fraud found in many elections. People are just now seeing how bad, dishonest and slow it is," Trump tweeted last week. "Election results could be delayed for months," he warned.

Further, the president said, mail-in voting would mean "no more big election night answers".

The president then went on to say that mail-in voting was "just a formula for RIGGING an Election."

The "Absentee Ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege. Not so with Mail-Ins. Rigged Election!!!" the president said.

In a recent interview with CNN, David Becker, founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research explained in no uncertain terms that mail-in voting and absentee voting are "essentially the same thing."

While absentee voting requires voters to request a ballot, which they made need to provide a reason to acquire, voting by mail is typically used in states with universal mail voting allowances.

Regardless, Becker said, both see votes sent in by mail.

"You request a ballot, you get a ballot, you vote, you send it in, and there are protections in place. It doesn't matter whether you call it mail voting or absentee voting. It's the same thing," Becker said.

Newsweek has contacted the Republican Party in Florida and the Center for Election Innovation and Research for comment.

Updated: 10/08/2020: This article has been updated with a statement from GOP candidate Bill Olson.

Vote Florida
A voter arrives to her precinct during the Florida presidential primary on March 17, 2020 at Miami Beach City Hall in Miami Beach, Florida. Republicans in Florida appear to be advocating for voting by absentee ballot. Cliff Hawkins/Getty