WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After weeks of railing against what he has claimed are the potential risks of voting by mail, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged voters in at least one Republican state – Florida – to vote by any means.
Trump, who is trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in polls, has repeatedly warned in recent weeks without evidence that mail-in voting could result in widespread fraud.
Voting by mail has been embraced as a way to limit exposure to the coronavirus, though the system to do so will vary from state to state. Most absentee ballots are also conducted by mail.
On Tuesday, Trump said that in Florida, where he has voted absentee, there was no difference between “vote by mail” or absentee voting, and urged voters in the state to trust their system.
“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,” Trump wrote.
He told reporters at a briefing later on Tuesday that Florida has had two “great” Republican governors and “they’ve been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally.”
Trump contrasted Florida with the June 23 Democratic primary election involving U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, which has yet to be called amid a court fight over disputed absentee ballots.
Thea McDonald, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said in a statement that what most states called absentee voting had long been termed ‘vote-by-mail’ in Florida.
Florida’s absentee voting system requires voters to proactively request a ballot be mailed to them, signature matching and voter verification.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing that the president was mainly concerned with “mass mail-out voting,” such as those planned in Nevada and California’s Los Angeles County, but did not have a problem with absentee ballots.
Trump on Monday vowed to sue Nevada, which plans to send mail-in ballots to every voter ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington already conduct their elections entirely by mail, while California and Vermont have decided to do so this year due to the pandemic.
The issue has spawned partisan litigation in dozens of states over issues like absentee ballots and signature requirements.
Democrats and voting rights groups have warned that cost-saving measures instituted at the Postal Service by a Trump financial backer who is now the postmaster general could lead to delays in service just as voting by mail ramps up.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler, Sonya Hepinstall and Gerry Doyle)