Republicans are making a strong push against proposals to allow people to vote by mail in the remaining primaries and the general election. They’re hoping having to show up to vote given the coronavirus crisis will do what it did in Wisconsin the other day, suppress the number of people who show up. Because they know that in order to win, they have to reduce turnout.
The scene Tuesday of Wisconsinites in masks and gloves gathering in long lines to vote, after Republicans sued to defeat extended, mail-in ballot deadlines, did not deter the president and top officials in his party. Republican leaders said they were pushing ahead to fight state-level statutes that could expand absentee balloting in Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona and elsewhere. In New Mexico, Republicans are battling an effort to go to a mail-in-only primary, and they vowed on Wednesday to fight a new move to expand postal balloting in Minnesota.
The new political effort is clearly aimed at helping the president’s re-election prospects, as well as bolstering Republicans running further down the ballot. While his advisers tend to see the issue in more nuanced terms, Mr. Trump obviously views the issue in a stark, partisan way: He has complained that under Democratic plans for national expansion of early voting and voting by mail, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
At his daily news briefing on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said he believed vote-by-mail had been abused to hurt Republicans, and “I will not stand for it,” though he allowed that mail ballots could help some older voters — an important part of his voting base. It was a slight modulation that came at the urging of his advisers.
He expanded on the idea on Twitter on Wednesday evening, calling absentee ballots “a great way to vote for the many senior citizens, military, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day.” He added that universal mail-in voting “shouldn’t be allowed!”
This claim that voting by mail increases voter fraud has no basis in fact. Several states already allow people to vote by mail and there is no evidence that there is any more voter fraud in those states than anywhere else. But even if this claim were true, it wouldn’t support their opposition to mail voting. Even if the voter fraud rate was a ridiculous 1%, you don’t fix that by preventing millions of people from being able to vote at all. Unless you’re Republicans, of course. And they are basing their opposition not on principle but on knowing they will lose if more people vote. So their solution is to undermine democracy to remain viable during elections.