If he’s going to demagogue mail-in voting, he should at least get the policy right.
Michigan didn’t mail out absentee ballots, they mailed out applications for absentee ballots. You have to formally request a ballot via the application. Here’s the secretary of state correcting him:
Hi! 👋🏼 I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson. And we sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia. https://t.co/kBsu4nHvOy
— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) May 20, 2020
Benson is still going at him after the correction:
Hi again. Still wrong. Every Michigan registered voter has a right to vote by mail. I have the authority & responsibility to make sure that they know how to exercise this right – just like my GOP colleagues are doing in GA, IA, NE and WV. Also, again, my name is Jocelyn Benson. https://t.co/deZJwbMlT0
— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) May 20, 2020
Nevada, whose secretary of state is a Republican, *is* sending absentee ballots directly to voters. Trump had a threat for them too:
That’s two swing states, one of which was key to Trump’s victory in 2016, being directly threatened with having federal funding (which funding?) cut off in the middle of a pandemic and global economic collapse.
That’s gooooood politics, my man.
And it’s not the first time he’s threatened to punish the citizens of Michigan for the behavior of their leadership. Remember that he admitted in March to encouraging Mike Pence not to communicate with Gretchen Whitmer about COVID-19 equipment because she complained too much or whatever. In this case, though, holding a federal benefit over the head of some state entity that won’t help him boost his reelection chances isn’t just self-sabotaging and reminiscent of the Ukraine saga. It’s arguably a crime:
As @waltshaub notes, federal law makes it a *crime* to hold out appropriations in order to intererfere with individuals’ exercise of their right to vote:https://t.co/GPxCJrFD7r pic.twitter.com/JlAcdGQ4mN
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) May 20, 2020
Lucky for POTUS that laws no longer apply to him.
He’s at least being shrewd in claiming that he’s worried about voter fraud instead of admitting the truth, which is that he thinks he can’t win if more Americans vote. (Turnout in Michigan was much higher than usual in local elections two weeks ago thanks to mail-in ballots.) He may be mistaken about that, ironically: Studies show there’s no partisan advantage to either side in mail-in voting, and Trump could actually benefit in key states by making it easier for his base of working-class white voters to cast a ballot.
One of the odd things about the Trump effort to suppress absentee mail voting is that it's totally conceivable to me that higher turnout would help him in these Midwestern states, where the kind of lower turnout and less educated voters who sat out the midterms probably tilt-GOP
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) May 20, 2020
It’s incoherent that he both condones and personally utilizes standard absentee voting on the one hand and on the other rages that a system of mail-in ballots would hopelessly compromised by fraud. His own campaign promotes voting via absentee, in fact. Given how tight the margins were in swing states in 2016, there’s no reason to permit even modest amounts of absentee voting if the risk of chicanery is as high as Trump would have us believe. (Michigan voters cast more than 900,000 absentee ballots in 2016. Trump won the state by less than 11,000 votes.)
I’m more sympathetic to the argument that mail-in ballots would create enormous logistical headaches when some ballots are inevitably challenged on technicalities, e.g., they weren’t signed properly, weren’t postmarked by the right date, and so on. Mail-in voting is certainly less optimal than in-person voting. But not voting at all because you’re terrified to go outside in the middle of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is less optimal than either. Now’s the time to begin planning for contingencies.
Public polling on this topic shows that Democrats are strongly in favor of mail-in voting, independents solidly in favor, and Republicans pretty solidly opposed, although there’s a footnote to that opposition. Gallup got this result when it asked the question late last month:
Earlier in April, Pew found 70 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat supported letting any voter vote by mail if they want to, including 49 percent of Republicans. I’m guessing that that number has since shrunk, partly because fears of the COVID-19 epidemic have relaxed a bit and partly because Trump is now sending strong signals to GOPers that he opposes mail-in voting and wants them to oppose it too, but there may still be enough indies in favor to preserve a majority of Americans in favor overall. And as for that footnote, in early April even 65 percent of Republicans supported requiring mail-in ballots *in case* the pandemic is still raging in November. The more this issue is phrased in terms of contingency planning for coronavirus, in other words, the more receptive voters may be to it.
In any case, Michigan and Nevada should call Trump’s bluff. Dare him to punish voters in a pair of swing states for the crime of wanting to make voting easier.