If you’ve been paying any attention to the president and his Twitter feed, you undoubtedly know that he professes to think voting by mail (VBM) is perhaps the worst thing that has happened to the United States in its entire history (well, perhaps aside from immigration). The Washington Post reports:
“The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In Voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it,” he tweeted July 26, one of more than 70 attacks he has made against voting by mail since March, according to a tally by The Post.
This campaign has been more than a little frustrating to Republicans, who have been planning for an election dominated by the coronavirus and are understandably trying to get their own voters to take advantage of VBM opportunities — only to find that MAGA folk make a hex sign the minute the very idea is raised, notes Politico:
New private polling shared first with POLITICO showed that Republicans have become overwhelmingly concerned about mail balloting, which Trump has claimed without evidence, will lead to widespread voter fraud. A potentially decisive slice of Trump’s battleground-state base — 15 percent of Trump voters in Florida, 12 percent in Pennsylvania and 10 percent in Michigan — said that getting a ballot in the mail would make them less likely to vote in November….
The poll is part of a late flurry of research trying to gauge swing-state voter attitudes as the coronavirus accelerates the trend of more and more voters casting their ballots by mail. While there are concerns that the U.S. Postal Service may not be able to handle the crush of ballots, some Republicans fear that Trump’s regular fulminations against mail voting will depress GOP turnout in the fall. He has repeated baseless claims of widespread fraud associated with mail voting, and late last week the president floated the idea of delaying the election because of it, which he does not have the constitutional authority to do.
In one particular battleground state — the one in which Trump himself votes by mail — Republicans have traditionally had an advantage in voting by mail, and they have been beside themselves about Trump’s demonization of the procedure, as The Center Square reported last month:
In the 2016 presidential election, 1.18 million Florida Republicans voted by mail compared with 1.03 million Democrats. According to DOE, 63,976 more Democrats than Republicans failed to return ballots.
Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes by 112,911 votes. The 58,244 advantage in mail-in votes, and the nearly 64,000 Democrats who didn’t return ballots, were keys in his victory.
It’s not looking like that’s going to happen again.
Florida Democrats have requested 1.6 million mail-in ballots for August’s primary, outpacing Republicans by 400,000 requests and raising fears among state GOP leaders that President Donald Trump’s criticism of voting by mail could nullify an advantage the party has used to win tight elections across the battleground state.
In response, the Republican Party of Florida has been mass-mailing flyers to GOP and independent voters statewide, urging them to request mail-in ballots.
The flyer features the first two sentences of a June 28 tweet by Trump stating, “Absentee ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them.”
The next three sentences – “Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. 19% of Ballots a FRAUD!” – are blurred out.
In Florida, Trump’s people have resorted to distorting the president’s tweets to promote a voting practice he has denounced repeatedly. To be clear — the distinction Trump and the Florida GOP are trying to make between absentee and “mail-in voting” is nonsensical, since anyone in the state can vote by mail and the term “absentee ballot” no longer even exists in Florida’s election code.
In 2016, state lawmakers, led by Republicans, unanimously agreed to replace “absentee voting” in state statute with “vote-by-mail” since Floridians do not need to be absent to vote by mail.
Pleas from the Florida GOP and other Republican parties have apparently reached the ear of the president, resulting in this rather bizarre reversal today:
There is no difference between Florida’s election system and the election systems of the 23 other states that allow — but don’t require — universal voting by mail. While it’s unclear what Trump means by the defeat of Democratic “attempts at change,” it may be a reference to a 2018 ballot initiative in which a supermajority of Florida voters attempted to restore the voting rights of ex-felons. The GOP “cleaned up” the initiative by refusing to implement it.
In any event, there’s no telling where Trump is headed now. My own theory (shared by many others) is that he wanted Republicans to vote in person exclusively so he could gain an early Election Night lead. This would enable him to (a) claim victory, and then (b) dispute later results dominated by mail-in ballots as “fraudulent.” That won’t work in Florida if he continues to promote VBM there. But again, there’s no clear way to distinguish the system in Florida from those in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other battleground states with no-excuse voting by mail. All we know now is that Trump thinks VBM is satanic — except in Florida, where it is angelic.