Analysis: Trump’s Attacks Against Vote-By-Mail Could Be Suppressing GOP Voters
The Washington Examiner reports that based on “Mounting evidence in voter registration data, a survey, and organizer anecdotes,” President Donald J. Trump’s hardline opposition to mail-in ballots may be more likely to end up “hurting him and down-ballot Republicans than it is helping him.”
- In recent months, Trump has repeatedly and in some ways with increasing intensity railed against mail-in ballots. On June 22, he Tweeted in all caps that foreign governments could rig the election by printing “MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS,” a hypothesis that Attorney General William Barr suggested earlier that month in a New York Times interview.
- Election officials from both parties have refuted the idea. Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, said to National Public Radio, “Election officials spend a great deal of our time building in security… The idea that people could print millions of ballots either within the country or external to the country, just on its face, is not going to pass muster with an election official.”
- The Examiner goes on to explain that by “blacklist[ing] mail-in voting, he discourages Republicans from using the method as Democrats organize around it.” This could impede Republican victory in the November election, rather than promote it.
Tom Ridge, who was the first secretary of Homeland Security for George W. Bush and a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, now co-chairs a voting rights organization called VoteSafe. Ridge told the Examiner,
The ultimate choice for American citizens should not be ‘jeopardize my health, or vote?’
… Mr. President: Your Republican incumbents and your Republican challengers in both the House and the Senate are going to do everything they can to maximize use of the absentee ballots to ensure their either election or reelection.
…To discourage potential supporters from expressing their point of view, expressing their preference, it's just, it's contradictory to the outcome he wants to take.
- The Examiner notes that “emerging state figures” from Pennsylvania and Florida “on those who have requested mail-in or absentee ballots show a Democratic advantage.” In both states, the majority of voters who requested mail-in ballots this year are registered Democrats.
- Additionally, a Rice University survey of 1,002 voters living in Harris County, Texas—the most populous county in the state with a larger portion of registered voters—finds that “68% of Democrats said they would be very likely to want to vote by mail, but only 42% of Republicans said the same.”
- Bob Stein, a political science professor who conducted the survey, “noticed a difference between Republicans who answered earlier in the survey, which started on March 27, and the final result, which included all the answers through May 4.”
- Stein told the Examiner that between the early stage of the survey and the end, the percentage of Republican voters in the county interested in voting by mail “dropped 4, 5 points… the polarization was great, but it got worse.”
- As this survey was limited to a single county, its significance is difficult to ascertain. Nevertheless, it seems to resonate with some anecdotes from campaign organizers.
- For example, Lee Snover, chair of the Northampton County Republican party in Pennsylvania, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that “We’re kind of listening to Trump on this… Trump doesn’t want us mailing in, [so] I’m not mailing it in.”