Donald Trump deserves to vote-by-mail, but the mass of regular people do not, according to Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers. Coronavirus makes vote-by-mail essential—an actual life-or-death issue—but Republicans don't want to make it easier and safer to vote. Or at least, they want to find ways to restrict that to Republicans.
Trump himself voted by mail in last month's Florida primary, and the Republican National Committee is urging Republicans to vote-by-mail in Pennsylvania, sending out a mail piece saying “Voting by mail is an easy, convenient and secure way to cast your ballot.” But when House Democrats tried to include vote-by-mail in a coronavirus response bill, Republicans blocked it and Trump complained that “They had levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Republicans are fine with a system in which you can vote-by-mail if you first send in a request for an absentee ballot, then wait for it to arrive, then fill it out and send it in. They oppose a system in which election officials send registered voters their ballots and they just fill them out and send them in. Because FRAAUUUUD! Except that there’s no evidence of higher levels of fraud in states that already do vote-by-mail, and in fact, the one major recent voter fraud case was committed by Republicans.
In North Carolina in 2018—where vote-by-mail is not universal—a Republican operative ran a major absentee ballot voter fraud scheme that ultimately forced a redo of a House election, with evidence that he’d been doing the same thing for years. Now, the Republican president of the North Carolina Senate says “The concern I have is that if what you’re doing is something that lessens the confidence in the result of the election, then I think we need to be very careful about going in that direction.” Gee, maybe your party should have had that concern while a series of Republican candidates were hiring a fraudster. Forgive me if the sudden concern rings a little hollow.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger worked with Trump’s reelection committee on a plan for mail voting, deciding to send absentee ballot applications to active voters, excluding registered voters who haven’t voted in recent years. That’s a group of 300,000 registered voters who are disproportionately young and people of color. Raffensperger is also threatening forms of investigating votes that he deems suspicious that boil down to intimidating entire neighborhoods of voters, as Fair Fight Action’s Lauren Groh-Wargo explained to The Washington Post, saying “They’re talking about criminalizing a mismatched signature. This is why voter suppression is so insidious. You knock on 10 people’s doors in a neighborhood because their signature didn’t match. Nothing will likely come of it, but in the meantime, people get charged with misdemeanors or felonies, and it spreads virally that voting by mail is risky.”
Republicans don’t want you to vote unless you’re already one of them. It’s really that simple. And if you’re black or brown or young, they see criminalizing your efforts to vote as a good way to win.