During the White House press briefing on Tuesday, April 7, Trump was asked about mail-in voting. He answered
President Trump: "I think mail-in voting is horrible, it's corrupt."
Reporter: "You voted by mail in Florida's election last month, didn't you?"
Trump: "Sure. I can vote by mail"
Reporter: "How do you reconcile with that?"
Trump: "Because I'm allowed to." pic.twitter.com/Es8ZNyB3O1
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 7, 2020
Early this week, the Supreme Court had rejected a request to extend the mail-in ballot deadline for Wisconsin's primary election. With coronavirus shelter-in-place policies in effect, in-person voting is potentially dangerous, especially for people who are already immunocompromised. As a result of the chaos of the last few weeks, people who requested mail-in ballots may not have received them; and some ballots that were mailed ahead of time may not have reached polling office in time, thanks to the general shipping slowdowns affecting everything right now.
In the Press Room exchange, Trump said:
Mail-in voting is horrible. It's corrupt. […] You get thousands and thousands of people sitting in someone's living room signing ballots all over the place. No, I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing.
In reality, mail-in voter fraud like the kind that Trump described is only slightly more common than in-person voter fraud, which has by all estimates happened less than 100 times total in the last 20 years. Across all elections, across the entire country. Which makes it pretty much a moot point. Individual people are not directly frauding elections; and considering that only about 60% of people even vote in US Presidential elections, there is absolutely no logical reason to make it even harder to get people to vote, "just in case" these next-to-never instances of so-called voter fraud ever actually occur.
So who's actually voting by mail? Ironically, it's mostly Trump's Republican base who benefit the most from it. According to NBC News:
Until now, the main factor as to whether a state embraced vote-by-mail was not its partisan lean, but its geographical location. West of Colorado, 69 percent of ballots are cast by mail, compared to only 27 percent of ballots nationwide, according to the National Vote at Home Institute.
Deeply conservative Utah has moved almost entirely to vote-by-mail in recent years while the Republican secretary of state in Washington is one of its biggest champions. Meanwhile, true-blue states like New York and several in New England have some of the more restrictive absentee balloting rules in the country.
Perhaps the most insulting part of Trump's mail-in ballot claim, however, was his insistence that it's fine when he does it, because it's different, because he does it right, therefore it's fine, 'cause it's allowed, when he does it:
I can vote by mail. Because I'm allowed to. […] That's called out-of-state. Because I happened to be in the White House and I won't be able to go to Florida and vote. […] There's a big difference between somebody that's out of state and does a ballot and everything's sealed, certified and everything else. You see what you have to do with the certifications.
This essentially boils down to, "I'm allowed to do it, because I do it 'the right way,' but we need to have more laws in place to prevent other people from doing it because I, personally, don't know if they're doing it 'the right way.'" In other words, it's a completely arbitrary "freedom for me, but not for thee" argument.
Trump's insistence that he's "allowed to do it" also exposes the absurdity of all "rule of law" claims. Trump is "allowed to do it," in his mind, because that's the law, and he is right, and it's legal, therefore it's fine. For him. The history or purpose or impact of the law is irrelevant in these cases; as long as the law benefits people in power, it becomes inherently self-justified. The law is good, because it's the law, and it benefits me, therefore I am good, and the law is good. It's completely circular logic — and yet it forms the foundation of far too many GOP and Trumpian policies.
There's literally no reason to restrict mail-in ballots, just as there is no logical reason for the existence of voter IDs. The coronavirus isn't going to disappear any time soon, and we're going to need to find a way to make voting more accessible while keeping people safe, before people find more ways to use the virus as a means of voter suppression, to entrench themselves in power despite their glaring failures in handling this pandemic.
Trump defends his mail-in ballot after calling vote-by-mail 'corrupt' [Brett Samuels / The Hill]
Fact Check: Is Mail Ballot Fraud As Rampant As President Trump Says It Is? [Miles Park / NPR]
Coronavirus has ignited a battle over voting by mail. Here's why it's so controversial. [Alex Seitz-Wald and Sahil Kapur / NBC News]
"It's Corrupt… I'm Allowed To": After Admitting He Cast Ballot by Mail, Trump Launches Bizarre Attack on Mail-In Voting [Jake Johnson / Common Dreams]
'A Day That Will Live in Infamy': This Is What It Looked Like When Wisconsin Forced In-Person Voting During a Pandemic [Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams]
Image: Chris Phan / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)