Florida Democrats say they are spending and organizing to go after people who vote by mail after election officials across the state canceled all pending mail-in ballot requests this year.
The mass cancellations had to comply with a 2021 election law that added new restrictions on voting by mail. The legislation, which was hailed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and criticized by voting rights advocates as discriminatory, cut the duration of mail-in ballot requests in half from four years to two. It also required existing applications for mail-in ballots to be canceled by the end of 2022, forcing poll workers to cancel millions of applications and start their vote-by-mail lists from scratch.
In practice, that means voters who requested mail-in ballots in 2021 or 2022 will have to reapply to vote in local races and the 2024 primary and general elections. In previous years, voters would not have had to request a ballot again for four years.
Democrats in the state say the change disproportionately affects their voters, who have embraced mail-in voting more than Republicans since 2020, when then-President Donald Trump falsely claimed mail-in voting was rife with fraud. The new law is forcing campaigns to adapt; Democrats say they are aggressively organizing to educate voters about renewing their mail-in ballot applications, depleting voter registration resources and other outreach efforts.
«He’s doing exactly what he intended to do, which is suppress voters and take resources,» said Nikki Fried, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party. «Instead of focusing our money, resources and time on other efforts and talking to voters, we have to spend resources getting people back on the list.»
Campaigns and volunteers that might have connected with voters once or twice to remind them to return their mail-in ballots may now need to connect with them three or four times to get a vote, Fried said.
“I’ll be very honest with you: In the black community, it’s the most important thing,” said Shevrin Jones, a state senator who represents part of Miami-Dade County. She runs a group called Operation BlackOut, which focuses on getting black voters to sign up to receive mail-in ballot applications. They are just one of many groups mobilizing to get voters of color on the vote-by-mail list, she said.
Elections officials also say they are sending emails and text messages and reminding voters about the change every chance they get. But in the six months since ballot requests were cancelled, less than a third of voters in three large counties have taken action to request mail-in ballots again.
Miami-Dade County received 438,000 mail-in ballot requests at the end of last year; by July 1, your mail-in ballot list it had more than 92,000 voters. Hillsborough County had 320,000 voters on its roll at the end of last year and now has at least 70,000 registered voters to vote by mail. Broward County said its Records reflect totals from Election Day in November, when sent 428,000 mail-in ballots to voters. In early July, Broward had just 35,000 voters set up to receive mail-in ballots.
A significant number of those ballot requests would have required renewal before the 2024 election, but Democratic strategist Ashley Walker said local candidates and campaigns, like in this year’s Jacksonville mayoral race, are feeling the pinch this year. High turnout in federal elections can boost turnout in local races, because voters who registered to vote by mail will automatically receive their ballot in the mail.
«Do I think it will affect the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump or whoever ends up being the final candidate? Probably not. It’s probably their primary elections, their local elections, folks, that will be most affected by this decision,» Walker. saying.
Walker said Florida Republicans had long outpaced Democrats in the state with mail-in voting, but in recent years Democrats have invested in promoting mail-in voting.
“The rule was designed to try to eliminate any type of advantage that the Democrats have gained,” he said. «But at the end of the day, the task is the same. The task at hand remains the same: you have to push people out.»