Trump’s hypocrisy exposes Florida as the most blatant example of GOP voter suppression
Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump, Melamia Trump the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC grand opening -- YouTube screenshot

The state of Georgia has drawn the most national attention as the hub of the Republican strategy to suppress the votes of people of color in particular, and Democratic constituencies in general.

But the trophies for hypocrisy and chutzpah go to Florida.

Republican state legislators are expected to push for a vote today on new restrictions designed to make it harder to use drop boxes to vote by mail in Florida. On its face, the move to restrict access to drop boxes with unneeded new ID restrictions might look like garden-variety voter-suppression politics.

But what sets Florida apart is its most infamous mail-in voter: private citizen Donald Trump. This is the state that Trump has chosen to call home -- to the good fortune of the other 49 -- and it is also where he has made the very noteworthy decision to vote by mail.

Therein lies Florida's significance as ground-zero for unmasking the hypocrisy -- and phoniness -- of the Republicans' national effort to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible. It seemed to have been singled out by Trump as an exception to one of his most irrational rules.

One year ago this month, when Trump still plagued the world with a Twitter account, he posted the following:

"Mail in ballots substantially increases the risk of crime and VOTER FRAUD!"

This specific presidential abuse of syntax and caps lock had unusual significance: It was among Trump's earliest election-related lies and, in retrospect, one of the most revealing. With the nation ravaged by a global pandemic that Trump possessed neither the competence or compassion to control, he sensed an early need to discredit democracy in advance should he lose in November.

Trump doubled down on his phony fraud theme at a briefing just a few days after the tweet.

"Mail ballots — they cheat. OK? People cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they're cheaters. They go and collect them. They're fraudulent in many cases," Trump told reporters, as reported by the Associated Press. "You get thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody's living room, signing ballots all over the place. ... I think if you vote, you should go."

At the time, the AP fact-checkers felt compelled to weigh in:

"THE FACTS: Voting fraud is rare. Trump's push for in-person voting in a pandemic, such as in Wisconsin last week, also contradicts the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his task force's social distancing guidelines, which urge Americans to maintain 6 feet (1.8 meters) of separation and avoid crowds of over 10 people.

"The CDC specifically recommends states "encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction" given the coronavirus threat. Late last week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it was monitoring the potential spread of the virus during Tuesday's voting.

"It's true that some election studies have shown a slightly higher incidence of mail-in voting fraud compared with in-person voting, but the overall risk is extremely low. The Brennan Center for Justice said in 2017 the risk of voting fraud is 0.00004% to 0.0009%.

"Trump is simply wrong about mail-in balloting raising a 'tremendous' potential for fraud,' Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, wrote in an op-ed this week. 'While certain pockets of the country have seen their share of absentee-ballot scandals, problems are extremely rare in the five states that rely primarily on vote-by-mail, including the heavily Republican state of Utah."

At the time, AP already was noting Trump's hypocrisy, as well:

"Trump cast an absentee ballot by mail in last month's Florida Republican primary. When asked about that contradiction Tuesday, he told reporters that it was fine "because I'm allowed to" vote by mail and that he didn't expect to get to Florida."

Four months later, the Republican Party was having quite a bit of trouble with the fallout from Trump's nonstop demagoguery against mail-in voting. His need to deny the pandemic was hampering its need to turn out voters.

"Republicans are playing catch-up with Democrats to boost the number of their voters requesting mail-in ballots in key states, an effort that is complicated by President Trump's criticism of all-mail voting, the Wall Street Journal reported August 23. Trump had received the message.

"Mr. Trump, who has voted by mail in Florida before, appeared to acknowledge the strategic role of voting by mail in the state in an Aug. 4 tweet: "Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True." Ah, those tweets.

"The Republican Party of Florida said it saw strong turnout for the Aug. 18 primary and agreed with Mr. Trump that Florida's process is secure," the Journal reported. 'When it comes to absentee ballots, the Democrats are playing catch up and just recently built out an infrastructure in the Sunshine State,' the state party said in a statement.

"Even if a voter requests a vote-by-mail ballot he or she might not use it. In the 2016 general election, more Democrats than Republicans requested a vote-by-mail ballot in Florida. But more Republicans actually cast their vote-by-mail ballot, roughly 1.108 million, compared with some 1.049 million Democrats, according to state records.

"(Florida GOP strategist Brett) Doster said he understands concerns about all-mail voting, but not Florida's process. "We have a great absentee ballot or vote-by-mail system in Florida," he said.

That message was driven home by Trump with no sense of shame. Trump proclaimed that the state's mail-in system was a singular example of doing things splendidly. AP reported that "Trump elaborated on why he supports voting by mail in Florida but not elsewhere." It went like this:

"They've been doing this over many years, and they've made it really terrific," he said during a news conference. "This took years to do," he added. "This doesn't take weeks or months."

In November, things turned out well for Trump in Florida under the "terrific" system. Since he won there, Trump didn't demand Congress overturn the will of the voters.

But now comes the Republican-dominated Florida legislature, just three days before the end of its session, and suddenly things are so broken that sweeping changes are needed to the rules for mail-in voting.

Turns out, GOP leaders have decided that the label "secure" no longer applies to mail-in voting by people who happen to vote disproportionately Democratic. That's precisely who's targeted by the latest proposed change in law.

As such, there's no better example of the insincerity and hypocrisy of "election integrity" efforts than Florida. Not even a state praised by Trump and Republicans as a model can be left out of the national voter-suppression campaign.

How much more hypocritical can this get? The Republicans last year weakened an effort to make it easier for ex-felons to vote in Florida, as reported by the New York Times. The party officially discourages people getting to vote after having committed a felony.

It will be interesting to see whether that position changes if Trump gets convicted of one.