Could the coronavirus infect the democratic process? 

Election experts from both sides of the aisle are growing increasingly concerned about an assortment of variables: voter suppression due to uneven health restrictions and stay-home orders among states and counties; an unprecedented demand for printed, mail-in ballots from understaffed election offices and an impoverished postal service; dozens of potential complaints that could invalidate results; presidential musings about a postponement he has no authority to impose and early assumptions by the president of fraudulent results from mail-in voting.

What could possibly go wrong?

The president’s stated concerns about mail-in ballots being potentially fraudulent while absentee ballots, he said, are fine, have stirred up confusion, as there is no difference between the two.

“Voting rights experts say there is no difference between the terms mail-in voting and absentee voting, and some jurisdictions such as Florida have scrubbed the latter term to avoid confusion among voters,” according to a July 30 article by Andrew Desiderio in Politico.

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin echoed that statement, and on July 9 sent more than 18,000 vote-by-mail ballots that were requested by voters. Such requests can be made online at keys-elections.org until Aug. 8.

“But mail it back in right away, or drop it off at one of my three elections offices, because I don’t control the post office, so don’t wait until the last minute,” Griffin said.

“In November, 42 states and the District of Columbia will allow any voter, regardless of age, health or location on Election Day, to vote by mail should they choose to do so. The remaining eight states, including the large states of Texas and New York, require a valid excuse for a voter to request a vote-by-mail ballot for November.

“Lawmakers from both parties on July 30 said they oppose delaying the election, and many Republicans in particular have touted the merits of voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic,” Desiderio writes for Politico.

“He can suggest whatever he wants. The law is what it is. We’re going to have an election that’s legitimate, it’s going to be credible, it’s going to be the same as we’ve always done it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters. “I wish he hadn’t said that. But we’re going to have an election in November, and people should have confidence in it.”

Local election confidence

“I have zero worries about a valid vote in Monroe County. Joyce Griffith runs a tight ship,” said State Rep. Holly Raschein, who is wrapping up her position due to term limits.

Griffin, too, is confident in her office’s ability to handle this year’s elections, both with mail-in ballots and in-person voting.

Early voting started in the Florida Keys on Monday, Aug. 3 and runs until Saturday, Aug. 15. As of July 31, the elections office had received 4,143 vote-by-mail ballots.

Griffin predicted a 35% turnout for the Aug. 18 primary, “but if we stay on this path we may get 40% or over.

“There are vote-by-mail drop boxes at all early voting locations that are being watched by a poll worker, so people can just drive by and drop their ballot,” Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin said, adding that because the Aug. 18 election is a primary, voters from Stock Island through the north end of the county will not get a ballot if they are not registered as a Democrat or Republican. All Key West voters will get a ballot because the city’s mayor’s race is nonpartisan.

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