One of the risks the president is running with his retrograde campaign to demonize voting-by-mail practices that are widely in place is that his followers may misunderstand and think they should deny this convenience to themselves. Trump doesn’t want those people on the other side of the barricades to have a chance to vote by mail. But where voting by mail is already relatively free and easy, Trump certainly doesn’t want his own people to pass up any opportunity to vote for team MAGA. Mail ballots only have fraud cooties when they’re cast by or for Democrats.
There’s evidence coming from Pennsylvania, a key November battleground state, suggesting that rank-and-file Republicans have indeed gotten the wrong message and are letting Democrats cast a disproportionate share of mail ballots heading into the June 2 primary. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, that’s because Republicans have internalized the Boss’s aversion to the practice:
As of Thursday morning, about 1.3 million registered Democrats had requested and been approved for mail ballots for the June 2 primary election, compared with about 524,000 Republicans. Republicans made just 29% of the requests, even though they represent 38% of registered voters in the state and 45% of those registered with either major party.
“I must tell you that locally, in my county, we’re not advocating and we’re not pushing the mail-in voting,” said Lee Snover, chairwoman of the Northampton County GOP. “We’re concerned about fraud. We’re not happy with the process. Trump has sent the message out there that he’s concerned about it as well …
“Our county kind of is a Trump county. We’re kind of listening to Trump on this,” Snover said. “He’s spoken about it. He’s tweeted about it. He doesn’t want us to do it.”
Now if every single one of the Republican voters who turn up their noses at mail ballots show up at the polls to vote in person, it won’t really matter. But particularly given the jitters associated with the coronavirus pandemic, that seems unlikely. In other words, the claim made by the president and others that voting by mail (against all the evidence) favors Democrats could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Pennsylvania’s interesting because it’s one of the latest to adopt no-excuse absentee ballot rules of the sort Trump suddenly opposes so violently. The Republican-controlled legislature passed and the Democratic governor signed legislation loosening up voting by mail in 2019, joining 33 other states that don’t require some excuse and 11 others that waived excuse requirements for 2020 primaries. If the Democratic advantage in voting by mail persists to November it could be significant in determining the outcome, particularly if health and safety fears about in-person voting aren’t completely gone.
What’s funny is that both the state GOP and the Trump-Pence campaign are encouraging their supporters to vote by mail. But it seem the folks only have ears for Daddy, and he’s telling them if voting is done that way it will be a “rigged election,” and they don’t want to have anything to do with that.
It would be richly ironic if Trump’s cynical attempt to undermine confidence in election procedures wound up backfiring and costing him the presidency.