Donald Trump was settling in for a rant about how “corrupt” mail-in voting is when a correspondent helpfully pointed out that he, himself, had cast a ballot by mail earlier this spring.
“I think mail-in voting is horrible,” Trump said in Tuesday’s coronavirus press conference.
“You voted by mail in Florida’s election last month, didn’t you?” the reporter asked.
“Sure,” the president replied. “I can vote by mail.”
“How do you reconcile with that?”
“Because I’m allowed to,” Trump said.
Trump and other Republicans have bristled at measures to ensure voters can safely cast ballots during the COVID crisis, openly expressing alarm in some instances that a resulting uptick in turnout would spell doom for the party in November. The president and his allies have attempted to dress up their naked political objections as concern for the integrity of the election. But that Trump hardly even tried to square the circle of explaining away his own hypocrisy Tuesday was telling: This is all about keeping Americans, particularly those who might vote Democratic, from casting ballots, and not about the fairytale Trump keeps trying to sell about “thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room signing [mail-in] ballots all over the place.”
“I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing,” Trump said Tuesday in a weak attempt to draw a distinction between out-of-state voting and voting by mail. “I think if you vote, you should go. Even the concept of early voting is not the greatest, because a lot of things happen. But it’s okay. But you should go and you should vote. I think you should go and you should vote...There’s a lot of dishonesty going on with mail-in voting, mail-in ballots.”
The remarks echoed one of his favorite conspiracy theories—his oft-repeated lie about a massive scourge of illegal voting to which he attributes his loss in the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016. His allies have taken up the charge, accusing Democrats of attempting to exploit the coronavirus pandemic. “It is beyond disgusting that the Democrats are using this crisis to try to dismantle the integrity of our voting system,” Justin Clark, a senior Trump campaign counsel, said recently. Trump continued his attack on Wednesday on Twitter.
How exactly does allowing more Americans to vote by mail threaten the integrity of American elections? They haven’t quite said. But they have said how such measures, which would make it easier to cast ballots and likely drive up voter turnout, would impact them politically. “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said recently of the proposals. “This will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives,” Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston agreed.
In Wisconsin on Tuesday, the nation got a preview of what November could look like if the pandemic persists and Republicans get their way. Voters in the Badger State were faced with a choice either to violate the state’s shelter-in-place order to exercise their right to vote—not just in the Democratic primary between likely nominee Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but in key statewide general election races—or to stay home. The result was a chaotic election that saw widespread polling site closures and exceedingly long lines, and turnout that appeared lower than last cycle. “Wisconsin’s election offers a nightmare vision of what the whole country could see in the fall,” Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told CNN. “A fight in which Democrats struggle to balance democracy with public health, and the GOP remorselessly weaponizes courts, election laws, and coronavirus itself to disenfranchise the voters who stand in its way.”
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