What to Make of President Trump’s Tweets?

Charles Stewart III

President Trump is apparently exercised that some states, especially battleground states, might be mailing absentee ballot applications to all their voters, so that they can request a mail ballot be sent to them. In fairness to the president, many of these states are new to the large-scale mail-ballot game, and have been struggling to keep up with demand.

But, notice the problem. He is angry at states for nudging their registered voters to take advantage of their absentee voting laws, and yet calls absentee voting good, because it involves an application.

Where do they mail ballots to all residents, which the president apparently hates? In five states, none of which is a battleground state, and each of which has a reputation for clean elections. In fairness, two of these, Hawaii and Utah, are new to the mail-ballot party in 2020. But say what you want about 100% mail balloting, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have not been beset with nonstop election-fraud allegations since they adopted their systems.

Not only that, but some of the most prominent proponents of mail balloting in these western states have been Republicans. These include Sam Reed, the three-term Washington Secretary of State who ushered in that’s state’s adoption of all-mail balloting. Republican Kim Wyman has vigorously defended the system since she succeeded Reed. Since losing his 2018 re-election fight in Colorado, former-Secretary of State Wayne Williams has been defending his state’s system against all comers.

What is going on here? It’s obvious. For some reason, President Trump (and many national Republican leaders generally) have gotten it in their heads that Democrats are inherently advantaged by mail balloting. In fairness, I think that Democrats believe this, too. Both are wrong. Nonetheless, bowing to conventional wisdom, from a strategic perspective, he believes that mail balloting needs to be limited.

But, the logic doesn’t work, even if you twist it in Escherian ways.

The problem, of course, is that President Trump himself votes by mail, as does his family. The distinction, as I understand it, is that he has requested the ballots; the ballots haven’t been mailed to him automatically.

Yet, this is precisely what is happening—or might happen—in the battleground states he seems so worried about.

What President Trump is railing about it not happening—or at least not in the states that will decide his political future.

One final thing. Despite the fact that President Trump says he votes absentee, that’s not what the State of Florida—where he is registered—says he is doing. Florida changed its election code several years ago, getting rid of the term “absentee balloting,” replacing it with the term “vote-by-mail.”

There is plenty to do to prepare for the upcoming election. Getting mail ballots to the right people and protecting in-person polling place is where attention to should be paid right now. All of us need to avoid the chaos and keep to the serious work.

Oh.  One last thing.  Most of the news today has focused on the last line of the President’s tweet, asking about whether we should postpone the election.  That’s such a ridiculous idea, and so easily debunked on a bipartisan basis (as it has been), that I don’t think it deserves any more comment than what I’ve just given it.