While President Donald Trump claims mail-in voting is ripe for fraud and “cheaters,” his reelection campaign and state allies are scrambling to launch operations meant to help their voters cast ballots in the mail.
Through its partnership with the Republican National Committee, Trump's campaign is training volunteers on the ins and outs of mail-in and absentee voting and sending supporters texts and emails reminding them to send in their ballots. In Wisconsin, where a special congressional election is scheduled on Tuesday, the Trump campaign last week blasted out a reminder via Twitter: “Request an absentee ballot by 5 pm TONIGHT.”
In another election, the message might have been viewed as standard get-out-the-vote work. But in the age of the coronavirus, it points to a problem for Republicans: How do they follow Trump's lead and oppose mail-in voting without falling behind Democrats who are embracing the practice as the safest way to vote during a pandemic?
The Trump campaign's answer is to continue to promote mail voting options, even as it casts doubt on some of the ways it is practiced. The campaign says it specifically draws a line at all-mail elections, where every voter automatically receives a ballot. That practice is “an invitation for fraud,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh contended in a statement.
States with all-mail votes have not reported significant fraud.
“While we strongly disagree with the ill-intended Democrat push for more mail-in ballots, we have an obligation to our voters to inform them of what the law is in their state and what their options are," Murtaugh said.
That position comes amid signs that Republicans may be at a disadvantage when it comes to making sure their voters who feel unsafe in a polling place have easy access to mail-in options.
Democrats ran a robust absentee ballot operation in last month’s statewide election in Wisconsin, handily winning a hotly contested Supreme Court race. The party is now looking to replicate its operations in a series of June primaries with an eye on November. Meanwhile, several officials in Democratic areas have decided to make absentee voting easier. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced Friday that the state’s 20.6 million voters will be mailed ballots before Election Day.