Donald Trump laid the groundwork early in the 2020 election for his possible defeat by attacking voting by mail and ballot drop boxes, insisting they should be illegal while making clear if he lost the White House those proven safe and effective means of voting would be to blame.
But now, with a flailing 2024 campaign the failed ex-president who is under multiple investigations is demanding ballot drop boxes be deployed – but only in churches.
"Some states use 'drop boxes' for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots," Trump tweeted in August of 2020. "So who is going to 'collect' the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country. Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!"
That was just one of his many attacks on drop boxes.
"So now the Democrats are using Mail Drop Boxes, which are a voter security disaster," Trump tweeted just days later. "Among other things, they make it possible for a person to vote multiple times. Also, who controls them, are they placed in Republican or Democrat areas? They are not Covid sanitized. A big fraud!"
The tweet was so false Twitter appended a warning label to it that reads: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about civic and election integrity."
Fast forward to now.
On his social media platform Trump reposted a "truth" (the word Truth Social uses instead of "tweet") from far-right activist, conspiracy theorist, and provocateur Jack Posobiec. Posobiec was "one of the most prominent promoters of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, that held that the Washington D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong was really a front for a child sex dungeon run by Hillary Clinton. He even went to the restaurant to find out 'what’s really going on' there," according to The Daily Beast.
"In 2017, BuzzFeed reported text messages suggesting that Posobiec held a 'Rape Melania' sign during an anti-Trump protest in an apparent attempt to discredit the protesters as insidious and deranged."
Thursday, on Trump's Truth Social platform, Posobiec wrote: "I don't know who needs to hear this but Republicans should put ballot drop boxes in the back of churches in every state where it's legal."
Hours later Trump was all over the idea, demanding the Republican National Committee implement it.
"Best idea I’ve heard in a long time," Trump wrote in all-caps, "put them all over the place. RNC, every Republican, get to work on this now!!!"
Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias' Democracy Docket platform just last week reported that in 2020, "Trump first attacked mail-in voting itself, then tried to undermine the postal service’s ability to handle the volume of ballots. Soon after, he began to target drop boxes as well."
As Trump learned, making it more difficult to vote is not a winning strategy, unless you're highly unpopular and can block a significant number of your opponents' votes while retaining your own, which he did not.
But the GOP sure tried.
"Republicans in many states soon followed Trump’s lead and began restricting the deployment of drop boxes even if the state had previously used them without controversy. [Ohio] Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) limited each county to a single drop box no matter how populous. Similarly, the Texas Supreme Court upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) order limiting every county to a single ballot drop-off location — from Loving County (population of 64 people) to Harris County (population of 4.7 million people). In other states, Republicans moved to ban drop boxes entirely, and Missouri officials decided against deploying 80 boxes the state had already purchased," Democrat Docket adds.
Meanwhile, Trump's – or rather, Posobiec's – strategy is clear: "Republicans should put ballot drop boxes in the back of churches," because Trump thinks he still owns the Christian vote, despite attacking "disloyal" evangelical leaders just weeks ago.
But drop boxes are largely the purview of state election officials, and there would be a strong case to make again putting drop boxes only in churches. What about other houses of worship? And why just houses of worship – are they more secure than other areas?
Some might think it's difficult to flip-flop on such a basic idea as drop boxes, especially if you went to court to void voters' ballots that were deposited in them.
"In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sued to invalidate the use of drop boxes in the primary election and prevent their use in the general election," Democracy Docket adds. "Then after the election, Republicans pointed to drop boxes as a reason to question the results in a lawsuit filed in Michigan."
Now that Trump has succeeded in ensuring Ronna McDaniel remains head of the RNC, this will be a test of his strength, or lack thereof.