President Donald Trump on Thursday tried to draw a distinction between “mail voting” and “absentee voting,” but his own lawyers acknowledged in court documents the two are the same thing.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Trump suggested delaying the election on Thursday amid plummeting poll numbers and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 150,000 people and caused the largest GDP drop in U.S. history. Trump has no power to postpone the election, and the idea was roundly rejected by Republican lawmakers. At the same time, many members of the GOP have expressed similar concerns about mail-in voting as the president.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump claimed without evidence.
Some states have long used all-mail elections. There have been more than 250 million ballots cast by mail in the last 20 years, and only 143 prosecutions related to mail ballot fraud, or a rate of about 0.00006%.
Trump later reiterated that he opposed “mail-in-voting” but “totally” supports “absentee voting,” even though they are the same thing. Trump and many of his aides have repeatedly voted by mail themselves.
Trump and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, for example, have claimed that they voted “absentee” in Florida. But there is no “absentee” voting in Florida. Instead, the state has a “no excuse” vote-by-mail system that allows anyone to cast a ballot by mail for any reason.
Trump’s own lawyers acknowledged that there is no difference between “mail-in voting” and “absentee voting” in a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s mail voting rules last month.
Attorneys for the Trump campaign noted that while some states have different wording regarding the terminology, “the terms ‘mail-in’ and ‘absentee’ are used interchangeably to discuss the use of the United States Postal Service to deliver ballots to and from electors” in a lawsuit available in full on the president’s website.
Here are the receipts. pic.twitter.com/wJILzX7FKk
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) July 31, 2020
“They are synonyms,” he said. “Some states tend to use the term ‘mail-in.’ Some states tend to use the term ‘absentee.’ Sometimes, within a state, the statutes will refer to both. But they are both the same. They are both processes by which people who don’t want to show up to the polls in person can receive in the mail a ballot . . . that they either mail back or deliver through some other mechanism to election officials. There is no difference.”
Trump’s complaints appear to be based on the premise that mail voters typically have to request and fill out a form in order to obtain a mail-in ballot, but some states are sending every eligible voter an application in anticipation of a surge in mail voting due to the pandemic.
The president falsely claimed on Thursday that states were sending out “hundreds of millions of universal mail-in ballots.”
Aside from the fact that there are not “hundreds of millions” of voters in the country, only California, which Trump lost by 31 points in 2016, plans to send absentee ballots to voters. Though Trump has falsely accused other states like Michigan of sending everyone a ballot, Michigan is one of a handful of states that is sending applications — not ballots — to eligible voters. There is not a single state that is sending ballots or applications to anyone who is not registered to vote.
Trump and Attorney General William Barr have also floated conspiracy theories that these ballots could possibly be tampered with or forged, but these baseless claims have been refuted by Republican state officials. There are numerous safeguards in place, including bar codes and signature verification.
Beverly Clarno, Oregon’s Republican secretary of state, told CBS News that the state’s system uses unique barcodes for each ballot it sends out. Kim Wyman, Washington’s Republican secretary of state, told The New York Times that “vote-by-mail has a lot of security measures.”
“At the end of the day, all voting systems are like banks,” she said. “You build a lot of things in to protect from fraud. You build in a lot of measures to detect it. But ultimately, if somebody wants to commit fraud, or if someone wants to rob a bank, they can. And then we have measures on the back end to prosecute that criminal activity. So you hope to deter it, and you hope it doesn’t happen. But if it does, you have ways to deal with it.”
Pressed on his false claims about mail voting on Thursday, Trump spun a new narrative arguing that he does not want election results to be delayed.
“I don’t want to see an election — you know, so many years, I’ve been watching elections. And they say the ‘projected winner’ or the ‘winner of the election’ — I don’t want to see that take place in a week after Nov. 3, or a month or frankly — with litigation and everything else that can happen — years,” Trump claimed. “Years. Or you never even know who won the election.”
Election experts rejected the idea that counting mailed-in ballots, which happens in every election, would delay the election for years.
“That’s not new. We’ve had absentee voting in this country for a long time,” Elias told MSNBC. “We regularly don’t have all the ballots counted on election night.”
“Any state should be able to count votes-by-mail and verify it within a month unless something derails the system,” Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University, told The Hill.
“We should get ready for the fact that we may not know who won on Election Night,” added Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School. “But there’s a process for counting and a process for fighting over the count. And the Constitution says that all of that is over — full stop — well before noon on Jan. 20.”
Supreme Court mail-in voting ruling raises alarm: Democrats may ‘never win another national election’
A divided Supreme Court rejected a Pennsylvania Republican effort to curtail mail-in voting, but experts say the Democratic victory may be short-lived — and confirming Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would be a "disaster for Democrats."
With Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three liberals, the court split 4-4 to reject a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block an order from the state's Supreme Court allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they are received within three days of Election Day — even if they do not have a clear postmark. The tie left the state decision in place, which Democratic lawyers hailed as "great news for voting rights."
Trump can ‘rage from the balcony’ but he ‘will not succeed’: Dem super lawyer promises to protect the vote
President Donald Trump has a lot of options available to him when it comes to his attempt to steal the election. That doesn't mean they'll work, however.
In an interview with Democratic "super-lawyer" Bob Bauer, "The Circus's" John Heilemann listed a few scenarios for Trump trying to steal the election.
"We already have an electoral infrastructure -- a voting system -- that is not always adequately resourced or supported," Bauer explained. "You take that system, you layer on top of it a pandemic, you lay on top of that destructive behavior by one of the major political parties who espouses this kind of nonsense, and you add on top of that the internet-distributed misinformation plays, and that just means that the task that you have to address these contingencies is much larger than it's been as a structural matter any time in the past."
Will American elections ever again be legitimate?
Only an established, legal “right to vote“ can defeat Republican voter suppression.
Republican politicians and conservative commentators are shocked, shocked! that Chief Justice John Roberts would say that people who voted before election day in Pennsylvania but their ballots were delayed by Lewis DeJoy’s sabotage of the Post Office should have their vote counted.
Increasingly, this election is coming down to the simple question of how effective 40 years of concerted Republican voter suppression efforts will be.
Their main strategy, particularly since George and Jeb Bush got together in 2000 to use a Texas felon list to purge 90,000 Black people off voting roles in Florida, has been removing the names of people who are legitimate voters.