Trump's mail-in ballot reversal: As he backs it, GOP lawyers are still fighting against it


WASHINGTON – Donald Trump and his 2024 presidential campaign team are now fans of mail-in voting – never mind all the allegations and lawsuits they’ve backed in the past seeking to restrict or end the practice.

Mail-in balloting, a key factor in Trump’s defeat during the 2020 election amid a deadly global pandemic, is part of a new Republican plan to promote early voting weeks ahead of Election Day, even after years of Trump attacks on the idea and attempts to roll it back.

“We will use every appropriate tool,” Trump said in a change-of-tune statement earlier this week announcing a new program called “Swamp The Vote USA.”

Said Trump: “Whether you vote absentee, by mail, early in-person or on Election Day (Nov. 5), we are going to protect the vote.”

Democrats, including aides to President Joe Biden, quickly pointed out that Trump and his team have filed a string of lawsuits – some still pending – to restrict mail-in voting and other programs designed to make voting easier.

“They’re trying to kick eligible voters off the rolls and intimidate who is left out of voting,” said Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer. “Trump thinks mail in ballots are ‘totally corrupt’ and last September proposed eliminating mail-in voting completely.”

‘A lot of people cheat’

The “Swamp The Vote” program is the nicest thing Trump has said about early voting in years.

In April of 2020, as some states expanded the use of mail-in ballots because COVID lockdowns made it harder to vote in person, Trump told reporters: “I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting.”

Trump and his team discouraged Republicans from mail and other early forms of voting, with predictable results: Democrats racked up huge advantages in early voting and won crucial states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

During a May 11 rally in Wildwood, N.J., Trump encouraged voters to vote by mail if they want, but also said: “You know mail-in voting is largely corrupt.”

Singer, with the Biden campaign, said: “Trump has spent years saying early and mail-in voting was ‘fraudulent,’ ‘cheating,’ and ‘crooked.’ Apparently his campaign feels otherwise. Trump should own up to the lies about voting and elections he’s been telling for years and admit the truth: Voting is safe, fair, and effective.”

Protesters hold signs and chant slogans at supporters of President Donald Trump outside of the Philadelphia Convention Center as the counting of ballots continues in the state on Nov. 06, 2020 in Philadelphia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)Protesters hold signs and chant slogans at supporters of President Donald Trump outside of the Philadelphia Convention Center as the counting of ballots continues in the state on Nov. 06, 2020 in Philadelphia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Protesters hold signs and chant slogans at supporters of President Donald Trump outside of the Philadelphia Convention Center as the counting of ballots continues in the state on Nov. 06, 2020 in Philadelphia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

All those lawsuits

Over the years, Republican organizations have filed lawsuits in important battleground states seeking to disrupt a host of early voting procedures, particularly mail-in balloting. Most have failed.

Still-pending lawsuits are in various stages of litigation in closely contested states like Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

The Trump forces are seeking to disqualify mail-in ballots received after Election Day with no postmark. They also want to eliminate mail-in ballots that are not filled out property or have alleged issues about signature verification.

This week, as the party announced its “Swamp The Vote” program, the RNC filed a third lawsuit in Nevada over election procedures. This one seeks to stop ballots without postmarks from being counted.

RNC chairman Michael Whatley said “counting ballots received after Election Day without a postmark creates a concerning and potentially fraudulent impact on Nevada’s elections.”

Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University who specializes in elections, said the various lawsuits don’t seek to end mail-in balloting; instead, the GOP wants to chip away by making it easier to disqualify certain ballots.

It could be self-defeating, Levitt said: Rules that count more ballots generally benefit infrequent voters, a group Trump is trying to appeal to.

The more Trump attacks mail-in voting, he said, “the more he is likely hurting his own supporters.”

‘It’s extremely important’

During the 2020 campaign, Trump often discouraged Republicans from voting by mail, a decision that may have cost him the election. Biden racked up huge margins over Trump in mailed ballots and early voting in general.

Republicans in Pennsylvania said mail-in balloting has made the difference in a series of elections, including the 2020 Biden-Trump race and the 2022 Senate race won by Democrat John Fetterman over Trump-backed Republican Mehmet Oz.

“It’s not only extremely important for Trump,” said Tom Eddy, chairman of the Erie County (Pa.) Republican Committee. “It’s extremely important for every Republican candidate.”

How committed Trump is to mail-in voting is open to question.

During an event Thursday in Phoenix, Trump discussed the “Swamp The Vote” program as an important part of overcoming any Democratic advantages in mail-in voting.

Urging supporters to contact the program’s web site, Trump said: “That’s where you go to get the information to request your ballot or pledge to vote early in person or even on Election Day.”

He did not use the word “mail.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump’s mail-in voting flip-flop: How it factors into GOP’s strategy



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