WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump is waging a new political fight against the adoption of mail-in voting rights throughout the U.S., claiming it is rife with possible fraud and would significantly benefit opposition Democrats.
Trump himself recently requested an absentee ballot to vote in the Republican presidential primary in Florida, the Atlantic coastal state he now claims as his official home after spending his entire life as a New York resident.
But he said on Twitter on Wednesday, “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting.”
“Democrats are clamoring for it,” he said. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans. @foxandfriends— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2020
With the uncertainty over the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and numerous primary elections already postponed, some lawmakers, chiefly Democrats, have been pushing for adoption of more mail-in voting, as an adjunct to in-person voting.
In the Midwestern state of Wisconsin on Tuesday, thousands of people showed up to vote in a Democratic presidential primary, even as lines to vote lasted up to two-and-a-half hours. The voters often wore face masks and distanced themselves a safe two meters away from others who showed up at polling places.
Republicans in Wisconsin and the national Republican party opposed an expansion of absentee voting deadlines as the Tuesday vote neared.
Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s likely Democratic Party opponent in the Nov. 3 presidential election, is among those calling for expansion of mail-in voting.
Democrats have long voiced support for expansion of the electorate through mail-in voting, on the theory that given an easier option to vote other than showing up at polling stations on Election Day, more people would cast ballots.
It also would likely help more Democrats win office. Some polling over the years has suggested Republican voters are more committed than Democrats to showing up at polling places and thus as a group do not necessarily need the added possibility of voting by mail.
Trump claims that if mail-in voting becomes the dominant way to vote, "You'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."
In fact, voting by mail already plays an important role in some U.S. elections, but not nationwide and not just in Democratic-leaning states.
The National Vote at Home Institute says that in the western part of the country, 69 percent of ballots are already cast by mail, but only 27 percent nationwide.
The western part of the country includes the deeply conservative state of Utah, which votes heavily for Republicans, and has moved almost entirely to vote-by-mail in recent years. The Republican secretary of state in the northwestern state of Washington also champions mail-in voting.
Democrats failed in their efforts to include financial assistance for states to adopt mail-in voting as it recently approved a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.
Republicans in Washington remain adamantly opposed, citing security concerns and objecting to transforming election laws as part of the coronavirus aid measure.
Now, one Democratic activist, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, said, "With the insanity of Wisconsin, Democrats have the proof they need to make this a mandate for November.”
She urged Democrats to ensure vote-by-mail becomes a possibility throughout the country as a "fallback" in the event the virus limits people from voting in person.
Trump pointedly expressed his opposition to mail-in voting at his Tuesday coronavirus news conference, particularly if some activists collect the votes of many people rather than people mailing in their ballots themselves.
"Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, cause they're cheaters,” he said. “They go and collect them, they're fraudulent in many cases. You gotta vote. And they should have voter ID, by the way, you want to really do it right, you have voter ID.”