(TNS) — President Donald Trump’s repeated, emphatic assertions that voting by mail is riddled with fraud and a way to rig the election are wrong. So says the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County — the place Trump considers home and where he himself votes by mail.
And the elections supervisor who refuted Trump’s claims was appointed to the job last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of Trump’s most prominent allies. DeSantis has supported Trump, and Trump has supported DeSantis.
“No, he is not correct,” Wendy Sartory Link said about Trump’s assertions.
Link is now running to retain the job she was appointed to last year after DeSantis suspended the previous county supervisor of elections, Susan Bucher. At the time, Link was a Republican. Now seeking to retain the job, she’s running as a Democrat. Also seeking the job is another Democrat, Paulette Armstead. Because no other candidates came forward to run, all voters can participate in the Aug. 18 primary, even those who aren’t registered Democrats, and the winner will get a full, four-year term as county elections supervisor.
Link said during an interview Monday with the South Florida Sun Sentinel Editorial Board that she wants to explain reality to the Trump camp. She said she’s reached out to a local Trump campaign contact and “invited them to come to our office and to please come in and let me walk them through the vote-by-mail process so that they can understand what it is that we’re doing, how we do it, and why he doesn’t need to be so concerned.”
The Trump campaign hasn’t taken her up on the offer, she said.
Trump has railed against mail voting, calling it “a very dangerous thing for this country,” “fraudulent in many cases,” “horrible,” “corrupt,” and “a terrible thing.” He has claimed unidentified people or groups “grab thousands of mail-in ballots and they dump it.” Although the president has said “there’s a lot of evidence,” he hasn’t offered any when pressed by reporters.
Link said there is no reason for concern about mail voting in Florida. It has greatly expanded since the controversial 2000 presidential election, when state law was changed to allow people to vote by mail without having to cite a reason, such as being away from the county on election day.
“We are in a very, very good position with the processes that we have, the laws that we have in place,” Link said.
She said the latest election system, which Palm Beach County has in place for the 2020 elections, is updated within 15 seconds of someone checking in to vote at an early voting site, a neighborhood polling place on Election Day — or when a mail ballot is logged into the system. That way someone can’t attempt to game the system and vote more than once using a different method.
Link said her office has promoted early voting, especially as voters’ concerns have increased during the coronavirus pandemic, making some people reluctant to vote in person.
“We’re not promoting it for any political reason,” she said. “My job is to try to get as many people out there to vote as possible. And this is one way that will protect people in both parties should they choose to take advantage of it.”
Despite the president’s insistence that voting by mail is an invitation for fraud, it’s been most effectively employed by Republicans in Florida, who have generally been better than Democrats at getting their voters to cast mail ballots.
Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percentage points in an election in which 2.7 million votes — three out of every 10 votes in the election — was a vote-by-mail ballot. More Republicans voted by mail in 2016 than Democrats.
And despite his repeated claims that mail voting is bad, the president and First Lady Melania Trump voted by mail in advance of the March 17 Florida presidential primary. He registered to vote in Florida, declaring the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach as his permanent residence last year, after he got mad at New York.
Trump has inaccurately stated that he voted by mail in the primary because he was at the White House and couldn’t make it to Palm Beach County to vote in person.
The president was in Palm Beach County on March 7 and 8, the first weekend of early voting for the March 17 presidential primary, and didn’t leave until Monday morning March 9. White House press pool reports show he spent part of the both weekend days at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach — across the street from a library where early voting was offered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.
Though not nearly the scope described by the president, Florida has had fraud connected with the use of mail-in ballots.
The state changed the law starting with 2014 elections to prohibit campaigns from paying people to collect ballots and return them to county elections offices. The prohibition was aimed largely at Miami-Dade County’s boleteros, a Spanish term for people who collect absentee ballots. They had been linked to fraudulent ballots.
In Palm Beach County, the State Attorney's Office investigated allegations of mail-in voter fraud in the 2016 primary. Investigators determined that 21 mail-in ballot request forms had been forged, but prosecutors did not pursue charges, noting in a June 2017 memo "there was not enough evidence to name a suspect."
Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci said via email Monday that he is “confident in the safety and security of voting by mail in Broward County.”
He said voters should guard the confidentiality of their ballots and not give them to strangers. And, he said, in-person early voting and Election Day voting is still available for anyone who is concerned about mail ballot security.
Armstead said she agrees with Link on the safety of voting by mail.
“There is no fraud,” she said. Despite many Republican claims over the years, problems with mail voting fraud have been “so rare and miniscule.”
©2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.