Donald Trump's campaign is encouraging supporters to vote by mail, even as Trump himself rails against mail-in voting.
In Florida, Trump Victory, the joint operation of the Trump reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, recently distributed what it called "absentee ballot" applications to voters, encouraging them to participate in the state's vote-by-mail system.
This was not the first time Trump and his team have urged Republicans to cast their ballots by mail.
In May, Trump tweeted that California voters should cast "Mail in ballots" for Republican Mike Garcia in a House special election and make sure they were counted.
Days earlier, the director of the Trump Victory Leadership Initiative for Pennsylvania tweeted a picture of his own mail-in ballot envelope and urged supporters, "Don't miss out on the chance to #LeadRight and request your mail in ballot at vote.gop!"
In April, the national Republican Party sent mailers to registered Pennsylvania Republicans, telling them to "MAKE SURE YOUR VOTE COUNTS" by requesting a "MAIL-IN BALLOT TODAY."
Weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, the Republican National Committee tweeted: "Make your voices heard on November 6th" and advised voters to head to a GOP website "to find your polling location or request your absentee ballot."
But despite the fact that they have encouraged voting by mail — and that Trump has frequently voted absentee himself — he and his allies have spent months baselessly attacking the system as rife with fraud.
"Now, mail ballots — they cheat. Okay? People cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, because they're cheaters," Trump told reporters in April. "They go and collect them. They're fraudulent in many cases. You got to vote. And they should have voter ID, by the way. If you want to really do it right, you have voter ID."
Though many states do not distinguish between "absentee" and "mail-in" ballots, Trump has attempted to create an artificial distinction between the two.
"The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and 'force' people to sign," he claimed in a May tweet. "Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!"
"Mail-In Ballot fraud found in many elections. People are just now seeing how bad, dishonest and slow it is. Election results could be delayed for months. No more big election night answers? 1% not even counted in 2016. Ridiculous! Just a formula for RIGGING an Election..." Trump tweeted last week. "Absentee Ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege. Not so with Mail-Ins. Rigged Election!!! 20% fraudulent ballots?"
Trump's 20 percent claim seemingly refers to a May special election in Paterson, New Jersey, that he has previously cited as an example of widespread problems. In that election, postal inspectors alerted officials to bundles of ballots found stuffed in a mailbox and elsewhere. Four people were charged with voter fraud, and about 19 percent of the total ballots submitted were rejected. Election law experts told NPR earlier this month that the fact that they were caught and thrown out shows that system's safeguards are working as intended.
The attacks on voting by mail appear to be backfiring, as Republican voters are avoiding the balloting method in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Trump's rhetoric may inadvertently be suppressing Republican votes," elections expert Michael McDonald of the University of Florida told The Atlantic last month.
As of May, more than twice as many Pennsylvania Democrats had requested mail-in ballots for the June 2 primary as had Republicans. Lee Snover, chairwoman of the Northampton County GOP, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that her members were following Trump's instructions. "He's spoken about it. He's tweeted about it. He doesn't want us to do it."
The Orlando Sentinel reported on Monday that the Florida Trump Victory mailer included part of Trump's tweet that "Absentee ballots are fine," but blurred out the rest of the tweet, in which he railed against mail-in voting.
Justin Clark, a senior political adviser and senior counsel for the Trump campaign, said: "There are significant differences between absentee voting and universal vote-by-mail. If a voter can't make it to the polls, they can request an absentee ballot — but 100% vote-by-mail is an invitation for fraud, mailing live ballots to unreliable and outdated address lists and inviting shady political operatives to go door-to-door collecting an unlimited number of strangers' votes."
UPDATED with a response from the Trump campaign.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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