While pushing false conspiracy theories about mail voting, President Donald Trump has argued that he was allowed to vote by mail in Florida, because he was unable to vote in person. Like thousands of other claims made by the president, this one is simply not true.
The president was in Florida to play golf at his Palm Beach course on the weekend of March 7, which was during the state’s early voting period. Trump even drove past an open voting site at a nearby library at least six times on that visit, CNN reported. He did not stop by any of the other 15 early voting sites open in Palm Beach County that weekend.
Nonetheless, Trump requested an absentee ballot on March 9, and he voted by mail in the primary.
The report undercut false allegations that Trump made while pushing similarly debunked claims about mail voting.
“Absentee is OK: You’re sick. You’re away. As an example, I have to do an absentee, because I’m voting in Florida, and I happen to be president. I live in that very beautiful house over there that’s painted white,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “So that’s OK. And it’s OK for people that are sick, and they can’t get up. Something. You know, something. But voting is a great honor. It’s a great honor, and people love to go out and vote. And I want to keep it that way. And if we don’t keep it that way, we’ll have nothing but a rigged system in this country, and we can’t do that.”
The vast majority of states already allow anyone to vote by mail, and numerous Republican-led states have moved to make it easier to vote by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“In my state, I’ll bet 90% of us vote by mail. It works very, very well,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters last week. “And it’s a very Republican state.”
“You know why I voted? Because I happened to be in the White House, and I won’t be able to go to Florida and vote,” Trump claimed last month. “If you’re president of the United States — and if you vote in Florida, and you can’t be there — you should be able to send in a ballot.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed Trump’s false claim earlier this month.
“The president is, after all, the president, which means he’s here in Washington. He’s unable to cast his vote down in Florida — his state of residence,” she told reporters. “So, for him, that’s why he had to do a mail-in vote. But he supports mail-in voting for a reason, when you have a reason that you are unable to be present.”
McEnany did not respond to the CNN report, which noted that Trump was “yards away from a polling place” during his visit and within 15 miles of seven other polling sites. The White House press secretary, who has tried to cast doubts on mail voting herself, voted by mail 11 times in the last 10 years in Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason. It means you’re absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person,” she said in a statement to the outlet. “President Trump is against the Democrat plan to politicize the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud. This is a simple distinction that the media fails to grasp.”
But, as the state’s Division of Elections explains, there is no need to be “absent” in order to request a mail ballot.
“Vote-by-mail refers to voting a ballot received by mail or picked up by or for a voter instead of going to the polls to vote during early voting period or Election Day,” the agency’s website says. “Except on Election Day, no excuse is needed to vote a vote-by-mail ballot.”
Trump’s tweets pushing nonsensical conspiracy theories which falsely allege that non-registered voters can cast ballots in California’s election drew a rare fact-check from Twitter.
A Twitter spokesperson said the tweets contained “potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”
“We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, adding that Trump’s tweets “may mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot (only registered voters receive ballots).”
Federal Election Commission commissioner Ellen Weintraub on Wednesday posted her own 66-tweet fact-check of Trump’s false claims.
“Voting by mail will not make the 2020 election substantially fraudulent or massively corrupt. There is no basis for that claim. None. Zero. Zip. Nada,” she wrote. “Such falsehoods are not mere words. These falsehoods may well undermine the American people’s faith in our democracy. And the *real* fraud would be if U.S. citizens were deterred from voting and our government reflected the consent of fewer of the governed.”
“True leaders speak truth,” she added. “Especially in an election season plagued by pandemic, economic uncertainty, and death, the American people deserve nothing less than the truth from our leaders.”