President Donald Trump came out for vote-by-mail efforts in his home state of Florida Tuesday – after spending months calling mail voting nationwide as rife with fraud.
Trump, who himself casts an absentee ballot by mail in Florida – a state he made his domicile after leaving higher-tax New York – made the surprising turnaround on Twitter, after a series of polls showed him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the state.
‘Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,’ Trump said.
‘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!’ Trump added. He concluded his missive by writing ‘#MAGA’ – his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.
Trump lauded Florida’s election system despite the state’s national reputation for dysfunction in counting ballots, including during the disputed 2000 presidential election that led to the landmark Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision.
The flip comes days after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters he was ‘not concerned at all’ about mail-in voting in his stage, which hosts a large number of elderly residents as well as a COVID-19 spike.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who like Trump votes by mail absentee in Florida, denied the president was making a U-turn.
‘He’s been unmistakably clear that when you have this mass mailout voting … the consequences are real,’ she said. She pointed to an alleged election fraud case in Patterson, New Jersey that Trump has also pointed to.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who like Trump votes by mail absentee in Florida, denied the president was making a U-turn
Trump has repeatedly bashed mail voting in a bid that rival Joe Biden and some Democrats consider a bid to undermine the result of the elections.
‘I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen,’ Trump Thursday at a press conference. ‘Mail-in ballots will lead to the greatest fraud,’ he said.
Some Trump allies have raised concerns that his harsh rhetoric about mail-in voting could ultimately suppress his own vote in some areas.
Trump again warned of the danger of election fraud by mail-in ballots in a new interview and claimed the election could be delayed by its unprecedented scale.
‘You know, you could have a case where this election won’t be decided on the evening of November 3. This election could be decided two months later.’ Trump told Axios.
The president added: ‘We have a new phenomenon it’s called mail-in voting. It’s new in terms of the kind of millions and millions of ballots. So they’re going to send tens of millions of ballots to California, all over the place.
‘I have a friend, lives in Westchester County his son passed away … He called me, he said, ‘I just got a – I just got a ballot for my son Robert.’ He died seven years ago.’
‘Somebody got a ballot for a dog, somebody got a ballot for something else. You got millions of ballots going, nobody even knows where they’re going.’
Trump has increasingly sought to cast doubt on the election and the expected pandemic-induced surge in mail-in and absentee voting – particularly as he has found himself trailing in public and private polling.
Trump has called remote voting options the ‘biggest risk’ to his reelection. His campaign and the Republican Party have sued to combat the practice, which was once a significant advantage for the GOP.
On Monday, Trump told a White House press conference that he had the authority to issue an executive order on mail-in ballots.
‘I have the right to do it,’ Trump told reporters at a White House press conference. ‘We haven’t gotten there yet, we’ll see what happens.’
Trump added that Republicans are planning to file suit as soon as Tuesday to try to block Nevada’s expansion of mail-in voting.
President Donald Trump (R) and Vice-President Mike Pence (L) arrive to participate in a roundtable with stakeholders positively impacted by law enforcement, in the East Room of the White House last month
Nearly all election procedures are governed on a state-by-state basis, with the remainder set by Congress or enshrined in the Constitution.
There is no precedent or apparent authority for Trump to try to curtail the use of mail-in ballots by executive order, though he could use a document to formalize his opposition to the practice.
Trump’s claimed authority comes days after he publicly floated a delay to the November 3 presidential election, a notion that was met with swift bipartisan blowback.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting and the states that use it say they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn’t disrupt the vote.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about his plans to combat racial inequality at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 28, 2020
Election security experts say voter fraud is rare in all forms of balloting, including by mail.
In addition to his claims of fraud, Trump argued that voting by mail would delay the determination of the election’s victor, noting that the winner of a New York Democratic congressional primary vote conducted by mail weeks ago remains undeclared. Trump said he believes that race would need to be ‘rerun.’
Trump claimed the challenge would be greater in a presidential election, where the Electoral College vote could come down to just one state, and some states allow mail-in ballots to be received up to a week after Election Day.
‘You’ll never know who won that state,’ Trump said Monday of Nevada’s expansion of mail voting.