Republican lawmakers say they have confidence in voting by mail even as President Donald Trump continues trying to discredit vote-by-mail systems, falsely claiming they are “corrupt” or “fraudulent.”
“I think we’ve actually had success with mail-in voting in my state. I’ve voted remotely before and I haven’t had any challenges,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) told HuffPost on Tuesday.
“No, I’m not concerned about mail-in voting in Florida,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on a campaign call over the weekend.
Trump has ratcheted up his attacks on broad mail-in voting in recent weeks as some states have moved to expand mail-in voting eligibility because of the coronavirus outbreak, and as polls have continued to show him trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden ahead of November’s election.
On Monday, Trump suggested the Democratic primary in New York’s 12th Congressional District should be “rerun” because of lengthy delays in counting mail-in ballots. Nearly six weeks after the primary, all of the votes have yet to be counted.
“I think I can say right here and now I think you have to rerun that race because it’s a mess,” Trump said, nearly a week after he suggested delaying the November presidential election because of expected large numbers of mail-in ballots. The president cannot act on his own to move the date of the election.
Democrats and voting experts say they’re increasingly concerned Trump appears to be laying the groundwork to contest the legitimacy of the presidential election if he loses. The strategy could pour gasoline on a highly combustible situation, especially because there is likely going to be a long wait to get election results.
In Michigan, for example, election officials reported problems with the delivery of absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s primary in the state. They also reported extremely high demand for absentee ballots. As of Monday, 2,066,000 absentee ballots had been sent to voters, compared with about 575,000 at the same point in August 2016, according to The Washington Post.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. elections involving mail-in voting. Trump himself voted by mail in the Florida primary in March. Other members of his administration also have done it, as well as nearly every Republican lawmaker on Capitol Hill at one point or another.
“I did it this year,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said on Tuesday when asked if he’d voted by mail.
The South Dakota Republican, however, argued that is riskier to vote in states with universal systems where absentee ballots are mailed to all active voters, even those who do not request one. Nevada on Monday became the eighth state to approve such a plan, citing health risks posed by the coronavirus.
Election experts say there are strict measures in place to verify the authenticity of all ballots cast by mail. Moreover, GOP officials in other states with all-mail voting systems ― such as the conservative bastion of Utah ― have defended voting by mail.
“I can’t speak for other states but it works very well in our state. We’ve been doing it for some time and the system is effective,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Tuesday.
Trump’s attacks against mail-in voting ― whether he is primarily referring to universal systems or not ― could actually put him and his party at a disadvantage in November. This concern may have prompted Trump to tweet on Tuesday about how Florida’s election system is actually “safe and secure” regardless of whether one votes by mail or absentee, contradicting his weekslong attacks on mail-in voting.
Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2020
Florida is a key battleground state, one that Trump badly needs to carry in November to have any chance of winning reelection. (Polls have shown him trailing there to Biden as well). The Sunshine State is also home to a large elderly population that is highly vulnerable to the coronavirus and votes primarily by mail.
“It just shows they realize their voters want to vote by mail and he’s undermining it all the time,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told HuffPost on Tuesday when asked about the president’s tweet. “By undermining it, it feels to me he’s focused more on trying to undermine the whole election when he knows very well his voters are voting by mail.”
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