President Donald Trump has been laying the groundwork for his scheme to turn an election loss into a win since the start of his first term.
Judge after judge has rejected the president's lawsuits challenging votes that went against him, but he has been pushing a narrative that likely Democratic votes were fraudulent or illegitimate since giving up on his conspiracy theory about Barack Obama's birthplace, reported the New York Times.
"The roots of Mr. Trump’s approach date to before his election in 2016, and he advanced his plans throughout his term," the newspaper reported. "But his strategy for casting doubt on the outcome of the 2020 campaign took shape in earnest when the coronavirus pandemic upended normal life and led states to promote voting by mail."
Trump immediately recognized mail-in ballots would be more appealing to Democratic voters than his supporters, who have chafed at any restrictions or disruptions to normal routines by the pandemic.
"So he and his allies sought to block moves to make absentee voting easier and to slow the counting of mail ballots," the Times reported. "This allowed Mr. Trump to do two things: claim an early victory on election night and paint ballots that were counted later for his opponent as fraudulent."
Trump installed his ally Louis DeJoy as postmaster general, and he immediately implemented changes that slowed mail delivery rates, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Democratic efforts to help states buy more equipment for counting mail ballots.
Republican legislatures in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvania refused to allow election workers from starting their mail-in vote counts before Election Day, and the Trump campaign and their allies began to sow doubt about mail-in ballots and votes in areas that tend to lean Democratic.
"Before Election Day, party officials at the state and national levels helped organize teams of observers, a role that was once a symbol of the transparency of American democracy," the Times reported. "But in this case, Mr. Trump and his allies encouraged their observers in key states to act aggressively to stop what they portrayed as widespread cheating and provide information that could be fed into lawsuits and stoke demonstrations and coverage from friendly commentators and journalists."
All of those efforts were aimed at corroding faith in the American voting system, according to the newspaper, and intended to make any losing result for Trump illegitimate in the eyes of his supporters.
"There was no greater proponent of that notion than Mr. Trump, who promoted it heavily from behind his presidential lectern or from his phone," the Times reported. "A presidency that began with a lie — that President Barack Obama was not a citizen — is now ending with one, too."