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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Could Trump’s Anti Vote-by-Mail Stance Cost Him the Election?

The Daily Escape:

Genesee River, Letchworth State Park, 60 miles southeast of Buffalo NY – photo by Donnelly585

Trump’s crusade against Vote by Mail is hard to explain. He of course, votes by mail. And, there’s every reason to believe that in the battleground states, he might benefit from it. From the Washington Monthly: (brackets by Wrongo)

“According to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections, [in 2016] 1,080,808 Republicans cast their votes by mail compared to 1,053,254 Democrats– a net advantage of 27,554.”

Trump ultimately won Florida by about 113,000 votes, not a truly significant margin going into 2020.

Trump world is taking what their leader says about vote by mail very seriously. The Detroit News reported that this happened last Friday:

“People burned letters informing them that they can vote by absentee ballot in future elections during a protest near Grand Rapids. The applications were burned…during an event called Operation Incinerator….Many people had flags, shirts and signs showing support for President Donald Trump and Republicans.”

The protestors were offended that Michigan’s Secretary of State mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. They may have been misled by Trump’s false claim that actual ballots were mailed instead of what was mailed: applications for ballots.

But, it’s widely believed on the Right that making voting easier benefits Democrats.

Many Republicans also believe it will make it easy for the Democrats to commit voter fraud. This belief has also been stoked by Trump. And yet, Pennsylvania voters got mailers from the Republican National Committee encouraging them to apply to vote by mail. The flyers described the option as “convenient and secure.”

At stake for both Parties is what an expansion of mail-in voting this summer means for the November election. If more people vote by mail now, they will likely prefer to vote the same way in the fall. Trump has said:

“Mail ballots, they cheat. People cheat.… Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters.”

Nonpartisan voting experts have found that states that conduct entirely mail-in ballot elections report very little fraud.

Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are all vital to Trump’s reelection, and he is sabotaging himself in each of them. It’s important to remember that Trump won those states by a total of just 77,000 votes. Those states all have subsequently amended their election laws to be more permissive for absentee ballots.

Floridians may be less influenced because so many there are already used to voting by mail.

It seems to be an article of faith on the Right that voter suppression is a key to victory, but that seems to have backfired in Georgia. Urban polling stations were subject to serious problems. So you’d think that making urban voters wait several hours to vote would discourage them, that many would give up and leave.

But it didn’t work out that way: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Democratic turnout in Georgia’s primaries skyrocketed — with three times as many votes cast in the Senate primary as in 2016. With 91 percent of the vote in as of Friday, nearly 960,000 voters had cast ballots in the Democratic Senate primary race won by Jon Ossoff, compared to 310,000 who voted in the Senate primary in 2016.”

It appears that for every Georgia vote the Republicans tried to suppress through active and passive means, they somehow created several more actual votes! This result doesn’t make their tactics any less odious, but it calls into question whether as constituted, they actually will work in November.

Still, Republicans are spending $10 million this year on legal battles against attempts to expand voter access in Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and Minnesota.

It’s hard to see a scenario where Trump’s campaign against vote-by-mail won’t make it harder for him to win, particularly since he seems at cross-purposes with many local Republican organizations.

If his lying messaging helps to limit him to one term, please proceed Mr. Trump.

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  • terence mckenna says:

    Unfortunately, voting by mail takes infrastructure – and if a state has not built that infrastructure, it will not work. In NJ our vote by mail is really a concession that helps a few seniors and those who travel for business. We don’t staff for it, and it won’t work. This is not an argument against – I am in favor, but as someone who has worked in insurance, so seen what it take to send mailers and process responses, there will be a surprises this fall.

    June 16, 2020 at 6:12 am
    • wrongologist says:

      @ Terry: The biggest infrastructure difference in an all vote-by-mail system is that less voting equipment is needed. Towns still need to count the votes. They still need people to count them, and they need a system to track that the ballots were valid. It doesn’t necessarily require greater infrastructure, but it requires different infrastructure.
      1. Printing and mailing: Ballots must be printed, they need to go in envelopes, and be mailed. The database of voters probably needs to have zip+4 appended to the street address. In really small towns, this will be all done by hand, although there are simple computer tools to set up mass mailings.
      2. Receiving and verifying: When the ballot is returned, the signature needs to be checked against the signature on file for the voter. That requires a human. A new system should be built that notifies a voter whether their vote has been counted, or not. Although that doesn’t exist today for absentee ballots.
      3. Since vote-by-mail increases turnout, there will be more votes to count. So, the town may need to hire more staff, have them work longer hours, etc.
      All of this is doable, but your point that states and towns will see glitches on their first try is certain.

      June 16, 2020 at 9:50 am
  • terence mckenna says:

    While in the end, the infrastructure may be less, we will need to build a second infrastructure and run parallel. (This happens in insurance every time we improve our systems – it is rarely smooth.). I used an absentee ballot just once in 2017 – and it turned out I missed something, and learned 6 weeks after the election that my ballot was refused – they informed my by letter. Oddly, the letter reached me, and they were sure it was my ballot. Our NJ mail in ballot is a mess.

    June 17, 2020 at 6:59 am

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