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Virus fears loom heavy on the minds of voters

Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 7:11 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Four out of five Floridians are concerned they’ll contract COVID-19 and die according to a new poll by State Innovation Exchange.

That fear appears to be influencing how Florida voters plan to cast their ballots.

“People are just feeling anxious in general about going out anywhere, whether it’s to the grocery store or to the polls or to visit their neighbor,” said Melanie Brown-Woofter with the Florida Council for Community Mental Health.

The poll found 52 percent of Florida voters said they intend to vote by mail. Three million have requested mail ballots for the August primary, which is 700,000 more than the 2016 primary.

“Historically over a third of our voters vote by mail. So the short answer is yes, supervisors are going to be prepared for it,” said Craig Latimer, president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections.

President Donald Trump, who has been a critic of vote by mail, has twice in the past week applauded Florida’s vote by mail system.

Secretary of State Laurel Lee is quick to point out, unlike in some states, mail ballots here aren’t automatically sent to every registered voter.

“A vote by mail ballot is provided upon a voter’s request. So that’s one way of ensuring that a ballot is going from the supervisor of election to a registered voter who has made the request,” said Lee in a June interview.

There are some, however, who want to see Florida send every registered voter a mail ballot by default.

A new report by Integrity Florida found little evidence of fraud in the five other states that already conduct universal vote-by-mail and recommends Florida follow their lead.

“Voting by mail is a reliable way to vote. Given the circumstances that we’re in with the pandemic, it’s also probably the safest,” said Integrity Florida Research Director Ben Wilcox.

Despite the health concerns, 47 percent of Florida voters who responded to the State Innovation Exchange poll said they still intend to cast their ballot in person.

The poll also found four out of five Florida voters support additional polling locations and extended early voting windows.

The governor provided for both in an executive order signed in June.

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