It won’t take three guesses, either. After demanding for months that states adopt mass mail-in voting systems for this election to deal with COVID-19 risks, Democrats have suddenly pivoted, Axios reports today. Suddenly campaigns from Team Biden on down are emphasizing in-person ballot casting and hand delivery of mail-in ballots to polling stations.

What changed? Well … nothing actually, for those paying attention. Except, of course, that the race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden appears to have tightened:

Democrats spent the early months of the coronavirus pandemic urging their base to vote absentee. But as threats of U.S. Postal Service delays, Team Trump litigation and higher ballot rejection rates become clearer, many are pivoting to promote more in-person voting as well.

“Become clearer”? They have always been clear, even with normal absentee balloting. Regardless of how well those systems are implemented, they add in new points of failure, and no way to correct for them. If a voter using an optical-scan ballot accidentally invalidates it with a stray mark, for instance, the reader will catch it immediately, giving the voter another opportunity to successfully cast a valid ballot. The mail process and security steps required for absentee or other types of distanced voting add in even more points of failure.

When states have adopted mass-mailed balloting, however, the problems in compliance have exploded exponentially. In New York’s primary, which took place three months ago, invalidation rates reached 20-25% in New York City alone. California’s primary in March resulted in over 100,000 discarded ballots. None of this is new, either; absentee ballots always have higher invalidation rates, but the impact is usually minor because almost all ballots in elections are cast in person in most states.

Donald Trump inveighed against mass mail-in balloting because of the potential for fraud, but that was always a poor argument. The real problems and risks with that system, which became obvious in New York, are disenfranchisement and delays in processing, both of which undermine confidence in the election outcome. Democrats used Trump’s argument to distract from those real and acute risks in order to score easy points on conservatives.

As Axios now reports, that will likely backfire on them in the end:

But there are signs of potential trouble given the volume of absentee voting that’s expected this year:

  • A fresh Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruling could impact tens of thousands of ballots in that swing state.
  • In Florida, voters are twice as likely to have their absentee ballot rejected if they’ve never voted that way before, University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith told Axios.
  • In North Carolina, “Black voters’ ballots are being rejected at more than four times the rate of white voters,” per FiveThirtyEight. Overall, data shows new, younger, Black and Hispanic voters are more likely to have their ballots rejected.
  • More than 550k mail-in ballots were rejected during the presidential primaries this year, per an NPR analysis.

Almost literally, one can rewrite the old joke headline about the end of the world to fit this: Mail-in voting a disaster — women, minorities hardest hit. Even these issues could have been mitigated by Democrats with a robust ground game designed around a GOTV effort on mail-in balloting. And that strategy still might work, but only for Republicans, who are the only party with a ground operation in this election cycle.

Now that Democrats have put themselves in the worst of all worlds, they want to start urging voters to show up in person. That’s still good advice, but by now a number of their voters have probably already mailed in their ballots. They’d better hope that losing ten percent of their eventual turnout still leaves them enough votes to win, and not just at the top of the ticket.