President Donald Trump talked up his newfound support for absentee voting and/or vote-by-mail on Tuesday–eliciting sharp criticism. But one caveat here is worth pointing out: he apparently supports mail-in voting for Florida only.
“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” the 45th president tweeted. “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”
The about-face comes after months of loud, public and sustained Republican Party opposition to vote-by-mail expansion.
In late March, Trump warned that “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” if the country switched to a national vote-by-mail system–which was interpreted as an acknowledgment that Democrats tend to win elections when voter turnout is high. Studies have shown that states who move to vote-by-mail systems experience significant and lasting increases in turnout.
Trump has also previously drawn a false distinction between absentee voting and mail-in voting. His latest effort in this regard occurred just last week. Tuesday’s tweet appears to be a subtle attempt to rectify this alleged distinction.
Legal experts and observers were quick to note the White House’s decidedly drastic tone-switch on the vote-by-mail issue.
“Please tell us what is different about Florida,” former federal prosecutor and Democratic Party impeachment lawyer Daniel S. Goldman tweeted. “(After you explain the difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting.)”
Attorney Andrew Weinstein was one of many who made plain the obvious calculations that likely resulted in Trump’s swift departure from his frequent anti-vote-by-mail harangues.
“Apparently someone just found out that [Florida Democrats] currently hold a 560,000 voter vote-by-mail enrollment advantage over the Florida GOP,” he tweeted.
Indeed, Democrats in the Sunshine State have recently racked up a nearly insurmountable lead in absentee ballot requests for this year.
University of Florida Professor Michael McDonald, an expert whose research focuses on American elections, noted the discrepancy:
Florida absentee ballot requests by party registration (8/4)
Democratic advantage: +592,815 (was just ~500,000 a week ago)
— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) August 4, 2020
Florida Republicans traditionally have an advantage–and win elections because of–their superiority over Democrats in requesting and returning absentee ballots. The president’s trashing of the concept in general, however, found an exception in Florida.
“When it finally gets through that you’re suppressing your own vote with your scaremongering about mail voting,” Civil Rights attorney Sasha Samberg-Champion remarked.
Trump has not been alone in his scorn for vote-by-mail expansion.
In June, Attorney General Bill Barr added to the GOP’s recent opposition.
“Some people noticed when you raised concerns about the security of mail-in ballots, as the president also has very loudly and said without evidence that there is a lot of fraud or can be a lot of fraud, you raised a specific concern about foreign entities counterfeiting ballots and mailing them in,” NPR’s Steve Inskeep prompted.
To which Barr replied:
Well, I think there’s a range of concerns about mail-in ballots. And let me just clarify here. I’m not talking about a mail-in ballot for a limited number of cases where somebody, you know, is going to be traveling around the world, and the way that the state has provided for that is, you mail in your ballot. I’m talking about a comprehensive rule where all the ballots are essentially mail-in, and there’s so many occasions for fraud there that cannot be policed. I think it would be very bad. But one of the things I mentioned was the possibility of counterfeiting.
“Did you have evidence to raise that specific concern?” the Morning Edition host pushed.
“No, it’s obvious,” Barr said.
[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]
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