How Trump’s Attacks on Mail-In Voting Set Stage For Declaring 2020 Election Stolen
September 7, 2020 ~ By Shari Rose
Trump is weakening mail-in voting and spreading misinformation as part of effort to label the 2020 election as fraudulent and rigged, should he lose to Joe Biden.
As discussed in Part 1 of this series, Trump’s long history in determining that elections are stolen or rigged when he dislikes the results is well-documented on his decade-old Twitter account. Part 2 examines Trump’s efforts to limit people’s ability to vote by mail, weaken Democratic turnout, and set the stage for determining the election illegitimate if he loses the presidency to Joe Biden.
Trump Says Mail-In Voting Will Lead to Massive Voter Fraud
Trump has spent much of 2020 attacking the legitimacy of mail-in voting in the U.S., gradually escalating his rhetoric as Election Day nears. Here’s why: Far more Democrats vote by mail than Republicans. And this year, those numbers are especially stark. An August poll found that voters who favor Joe Biden for president are twice as likely to vote by mail than Trump voters.
So, the idea is that by limiting people’s ability to vote by mail, fewer Democrats will vote and Trump has a better chance of remaining president. However, this is called voter suppression, and is illegal. But after the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, state Republicans found it quite simple to suppress the vote in Democratic strongholds by closing polling stations and passing stringent voter laws in recent years. Which is to say that rampant voter suppression in the U.S. hasn’t been stopped before, and it probably won’t be in 2020, either.
In addition, concerns about coronavirus lead even more people to choose to vote by mail for the sake of their health. And if you believe health officials and are taking the virus seriously enough to adjust your behavior and vote by mail, you’re probably not supporting Trump in the 2020 election. This is another reason why Trump is highly motivated to limit mail-in voting as much as possible.
In April 2020, Gallup polling showed 54% of Americans disapproved of Trump’s performance as president. The jobless rate, already on an upward trend for March, would skyrocket as the economy would lose more than 20 million jobs by the end of the month, an all-time record. So, Trump began to attack mail-in voting on Twitter ahead of the election. He wrote, “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans. @foxandfriends.”
The next month, Trump made a distinction between absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, which are, in fact, the same thing. He said, “Absentee Ballots are a great way to vote for the many senior citizens, military, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day. These ballots are very different from 100% Mail-In Voting, which is “RIPE for FRAUD,” and shouldn’t be allowed!”
Trump Tweets Attacks Against Mail-In Voting in May and June
Trump escalated his rhetoric and further spread conspiracy theories about rigged elections and voter fraud caused by mail-in voting. He also continued to falsely repeat over and over again that voting by mail would result in massive fraud and his reelection loss. A small sampling of Trump’s Twitter attacks on mail-in voting in May and June include:
- May 24: “The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and “force” people to sign. Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!”
- May 26: “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..”
- May 28. “MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE. IT WILL ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY. WE CAN NEVER LET THIS TRAGEDY BEFALL OUR NATION. BIG MAIL-IN VICTORY IN TEXAS COURT TODAY. CONGRATS!!!”
- June 22: “2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”
- June 28: “Absentee Ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them. Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. 19% of Ballots a FRAUD!”
Trump Tweets Lead to Administration Actions
While many, especially Senate Republicans, prefer to say they don’t pay attention to what the president says on Twitter, his administration sure does. Trump’s words have consistently translated to policy changes and administration actions.
True to form, Trump mega donor and current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pushed new policies at the U.S. Postal Service that weakened its ability to process mail and provide its most basic services across the country. In July 2020, DeJoy removed hundreds of mail sorting machines in battleground states, cut overtime to employees, and shuffled around longtime leadership within USPS to further sow confusion and weaken the institution itself.
Later that month, the USPS officially warned nearly all 50 states that voters’ mailed-in ballots may not arrive in time to be counted in the 2020 election, due in part to the administration’s new rules. This can have major repercussions for the ability of the Postal Service to send and receive mail-in ballots ahead of November.
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Additionally, Attorney General Bill Barr has no qualms in supporting Trump’s tirade against mail-in voting, and is more than willing to spread misinformation concerning it. In early September, Barr falsely said in an interview with CNN that “…we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected, he — from people who could vote, he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to.”
However, Barr’s story of this voter fraud case does not exist. There is no case even remotely similar to it. But this lie serves Trump’s goal in making people believe that the 2020 election results cannot be trusted because of voter fraud. It also makes the possibility of a rigged or stolen election more likely, particularly in Trump supporters’ minds.
As widely expected, Trump continued to escalate his attacks on mail-in voting in August and early September. Some notable instances include:
- August 23: “The greatest Election Fraud in our history is about to happen. This may top the Democrats illegally spying on my campaign!”
- August 25: “For our Country to be sending 80 million UNSOLICITED BALLOTS is very unfair and a roadmap to disaster. Even recent small and easier to control elections which did this are a catastrophic disaster. Fraudulent & missing Ballots like never seen before. 20% and 30% off. STOP!”
- September 2: “The Unsolicited Ballots Scam is their only hope. Will be the most corrupt election in history, by far!”
This pattern of spending the weeks before an election attacking its trustworthiness is exactly how Trump behaved when he believed he would lose the presidency to Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is working to normalize the idea of a fraudulent election because he will use that argument to create a reality in which he never lost the election at all. Rather, it was illegally stolen by the Democrats through mail-in voting, and the 2020 election as a whole must be declared illegitimate.
Trump Says Democrats are Rigging the Election Through Voting By Mail
As the president continued to intensify his rhetoric concerning mail-in voting, he increasingly incorporated Democrats into conspiracies. In late June, Trump told his supporters that Democrats were using the coronavirus to steal the election: “Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history – unless this stupidity is ended. We voted during World War One & World War Two with no problem, but now they are using Covid in order to cheat by using Mail-Ins!”
At the Republican National Convention on August 25, Trump continued to explicitly accuse Democrats of stealing the election from Republicans. He said on stage: “…but what it means is they’re trying to steal the election from the Republicans, that’s what it means, in a very, very nice way I will tell you they are trying to steal the election just like they did last time with spying and we caught them and that included President Obama and that included, that included, let’s be nice, spite – this can only happen in North Carolina…”
On Twitter, Trump ratcheted up accusations of Democrats using mail-in voting to steal the election:
- August 15: “The Democrats know the 2020 Election will be a fraudulent mess. Will maybe never know who won!”
- August 17: “Some states use “drop boxes” for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots. So who is going to “collect” the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country. Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!”
- August 20: “The Democrats are demanding Mail-In Ballots because the enthusiasm meter for Slow Joe Biden is the lowest in recorded history, and they are concerned that very few people will turn out to vote. Instead, they will search & find people, then “harvest” & return Ballots. Not fair!”
- September 6: “A massive Disinformation Campaign is going on by the Democrats, their partner, the Fake News Media, & Big Tech. They create false stories and then push them like has never been done before, even beyond the 2016 Campaign. It imperils our Country, and must stop now. Victory 2020!”
Trump appears to be making the issue of the election’s legitimacy a deeply political issue. By so viciously and consistently attacking Democrats on false allegations of committing voter fraud or attempting to “steal” the election, Trump has the perfect reasoning for losing the election to Biden: He didn’t actually lose the election at all. It was illegally stolen by the Radical Left Democrats!
He is creating the conditions for his election loss to be part of a massive leftist conspiracy, and not because he is genuinely disliked by a majority of voters in this country. His reasoning won’t stop there. Trump will escalate his rhetoric even further. And if history has shown us anything, his supporters will follow suit.
Trump Shares Gradually Escalating “Solutions” for Preventing Voter Fraud in 2020
Unlike his presidential run in 2016, Trump now has the full power of the presidency, a handpicked attorney general, and a flurry of powerful Republicans willing to back up his rhetoric with action as he runs for reelection. While ignoring dire warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia and other countries are seeking to interfere in the presidential election once again, Trump is instead tripling down on pushing for autocratic “solutions” in protecting against the idea of a stolen election.
Police Officers at the Polls
In an Interview with Sean Hannity in August 2020, Trump promised that police and other law enforcement officials would be involved with Election Day proceedings. He said: “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, US attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals.”
It is against U.S. federal law for any federal officer, including the president, to order police officers or troops to stand guard at polling locations. Trump does not have the legal authority to send law enforcement at voting locations to monitor elections, in large part because it enforces voter suppression and intimidation, particularly against voters of color, at the polls. It is genuinely undemocratic to even suggest that police officers and sheriffs be involved with anything concerning the voting process.
Trump Election Observers in 2016 and 2020
In October 2016, Trump solicited his Twitter followers to become “Trump Election Observers.” He pointed them to a campaign link that asked for Trump supporters’ help in stopping a rigged election: “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!”
As president, Trump now has the authority and power of the federal government to further recruit partisan Trump supporters to “observe” the election. CNN reports that the Trump campaign is working to send thousands of Trump supporters to polling locations across the U.S. to ensure the election isn’t rigged. This can lower voter turnout and intimidate voters at the polls, particularly those who plan on voting for Biden. Additionally, the RNC is working directly with Trump to monitor voting, something that hasn’t happened since 1980.
And, because there’s a Trump tweet for everything, he told his followers back in November 2012 to look out for Obama observers at voting locations: “If you experience any harassment or heckling at the polling places from Obama supporters, make sure you report it immediately.”
Delaying 2020 Election
As Trump ratcheted up his attacks on mail-in voting and unsubstantiated allegations that the 2020 election will be the most rigged contest in U.S. history, he suggested delaying Election Day entirely. On Twitter in late July, Trump wrote: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Later that day, Trump doubled down on the clearly unconstitutional idea, saying, “Do I want to see a day change? No. But I don’t want to see a crooked election.” Again, he doesn’t provide any evidence for his claim, but the fear and anger elicited from his base at the idea of rigged election is more than enough to foster doubt and discord into the national perception of the upcoming election.
Trump Tells Supporters to Vote Twice
At a South Carolina tele-rally in early September 2020, Trump implored his supporters to illegally vote twice in the upcoming election to ensure it’s counted. He said:
“On Election Day or early voting, go to your polling place, even though you’ve mailed it in, go to your polling place to see whether or not your mail-in vote has been tabulated or counted. … So if it hasn’t been counted, if it doesn’t show up, go and vote. And then if your mail-in ballot arrives after you vote, which it shouldn’t, but possibly it could, perhaps. That ballot will not be used … So send it in and then see, and then vote, and let’s see what happens.”
Because it will cause unnecessary delays in tallying results, election officials strongly recommend against attempting to check on the status of your mail-in ballot at a local polling location. It’s not even possible to do in many states, precisely because of the backlog and confusion it can create, particularly at the physical polling locations.
Trump furthered this narrative on Twitter, telling his supporters to “make sure your vote counts and is counted” by going to their polling place on Election Day and inquiring about the status of their ballot. Twitter blocked the content of the president’s tweets because they spread misinformation about “election integrity,” but they can still be viewed online. When Trump tells his supporters to vote both by mail and in person, he’s telling them to vote illegally.
Trump’s well-documented history of saying exactly what he thinks online tells the rest of us that his attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election will worsen from here. His conspiracy theories, baseless attacks, fear-mongering, and near-constant claims of a rigged election will escalate as we head into the last months and weeks before Election Day.
Expect him to use terms like “coup” and “civil war” and “defend” increasingly more often, and expect him to spread more conspiracies and fear about why Americans cannot trust the results of the election. Because Trump’s history of behavior regarding elections also suggests that he will reject the results of the election if he loses the presidency to Joe Biden.
Journalists and legal experts alike warned the public about this possibility for months, even years. The Constitution assumes good faith from this country’s leaders, particularly when it comes to elections. But if the president himself does not operate with that intention, instead working to encourage doubt, confusion, resentment, anger, and even violence because he believes it will help him politically, there isn’t much stopping him at this point. Certainly not from fellow Republicans, nor from the administration officials he installed himself, like Louis DeJoy and Bill Barr.
Like protests, voting is one of the few tools we citizens have at our disposal for direct action concerning the president. And while his voice is loud, the collective voice of millions is louder still. And our voices lead to actions, too.
Check your registration voter status: https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote/voter-registration-status
Find your polling place: https://www.nass.org/can-i-vote/find-your-polling-place