Florida Republicans once had a robust vote-by-mail program that helped give them the edge over Democrats in the state. Unfortunately, however, President Donald Trump's conspiracies have killed any lead the GOP held.
The New York Times cited University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald, who said that this is the first election in which Democrats are casting more early votes than Republicans.
"In Florida, he said, 11.5 percent of Democrats who requested absentee ballots have returned them, compared with 8.7 percent of Republicans," the Times reported. "The same pattern emerges in another battleground state, North Carolina, where the return rate for Democratic ballots is 32.9 percent, and the return rate for Republicans is 27.4 percent."
In 2016, Trump's early-vote turnout swamped Hillary Clinton, particularly in states like Florida. It's a problem that Republicans are beginning to understand is a problem. The report explained that the GOP expected suppressed turnout because of Trump's conspiracies; they didn't expect it to be this bad.
"And a lack of absentee ballots returned could leave the GOP blind as it adjusts its get-out-the-vote operation in the weeks ahead," said the Times.
"One of the advantages of having absentee ballots or voting by mail is it gives you a little bit of a snapshot as they are returned, and finding out who is returning them and where you are in your field operation," said GOP strategist Matt Gorman. "If Republicans aren't getting accurate reads on that, they're not getting accurate reads on where they need to adjust more."
A top adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Alex Conant, explained that the president's attacks on voting by mail have suppressed GOP turnout.
"In Florida, Republicans have a really good early-vote program," he said. "The president takes advantage of it. So why the president would tell Republicans in Florida not to vote early, when historically that's how we run elections in Florida, is very concerning."
According to polls in 11 battleground states, 56 percent of Republicans say they plan to vote in person, where just 26 percent of Democrats say they will. Given that polling places have been cut all over the country, this could mean extra long lines for the GOP, which could also suppress their turnout.
Ironically, Democrats sought to use another stimulus package to help fund voting operations so that polling locations wouldn't be shut down. Republicans refused to support it, essentially hurting their own voters who plan to vote on Election Day.