It’s been a contentious election cycle, but Sen. Bill Nelson said Americans are engaged and appear eager to cast their ballots.
“I think, on the one hand, people all across the country are so turned off at the degree of ugliness that has gone on in our politics,” said Nelson following a stop in Immokalee on Saturday. “But, on the other hand, I think that has sparked the interest of the American people, especially in a state like Florida.”
Nelson was in Immokalee on Saturday afternoon to talk with Collier County leaders about the U.S. Department of Agriculture Promise Zone designation. The community received the designation — which commits the federal government to partner with local leaders to address community revitalization challenges — in June. The Southwest Florida zone is the only Promise Zone in the state of Florida.
Nelson’s trip also came just days before the start of Florida’s in-person early voting period. Early voting is scheduled to begin in about 50 counties — including Duval, Collier, Hillsborough, and Orange — Monday.
Millions of Floridians are expected to cast ballots during the early voting period, including Nelson. The Orlando Democrat said he and his wife, Grace, plan to vote early when it begins next week.
Nelson pointed to long lines on the first day of early voting in North Carolina as an indication Americans are eager to get out and cast a ballot. According to ABC 11 News in Raleigh, some voters waited an hour and 15 minutes to cast ballots in Wake County, North Carolina.
“I think this is showing an interest,” said Nelson. “At the end of the day, even though it’s been an acrimonious, highly contentious presidential contest, I think what we’re seeing is that the American people are going to get engaged and they’re going to vote.”
Nelson dismissed claims by Republican Donald Trump that the election was rigged, saying “there is no election fraud.” He said Florida has taken steps over the years to make it easier for Floridians to vote, with early voting, vote-by-mail, and Election Day voting.
“As a result, I think you’re going to see a smooth election and I also think you’re going to see an election with hardly any voter fraud,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of voters are already casting ballots. According to the Florida Division of Elections, more than 1.1 million Floridians have already returned their vote-by-mail ballots. Records show 463,959 Republicans and 443,502 Democrats have returned their ballots.