Here’s an interesting news nugget courtesy of CNN’s Abby Phillip:
“President Trump and Melania Trump have both requested their mail-in ballots. They were sent in the mail to the first family yesterday, per the Palm Beach County Elections website.”
But wait. Isn’t that the same Trump who tweeted on July 21 that “Mail-In Voting, unless changed by the courts, will lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History! #RIGGEDELECTION”? And the same Trump who has said that mail-in balloting is rife with fraud and abuse? And the same Trump who admitted Thursday that he is blocking legislation for coronavirus relief because it includes dollars for the United States Postal Service – in hopes of making it more difficult for people to vote by mail and for those votes to be properly counted?
Yes, it’s the same guy! (But you already knew that.)
So how does Trump explain this bit of hypocrisy? By suggesting that what he is doing is voting by absentee – and that there is a clear difference between doing that and voting by mail.
Here’s what Trump said at a July 30 news conference when asked about his past history of voting absentee:
“Absentee is different. Absentee, you have to work. You have to send in for applications. You have to go through a whole procedure …
” … For instance, I’m an absentee voter because I can’t be in Florida, because I’m in Washington,” Trump said. “I’m at the White House, so I’ll be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters, and it works. We’re in favor of absentee, but it’s much different than millions of people in California. They’re going to send out tens of millions of voting forms. Well, where are they going to go? You read where postmen are in big trouble now. You read where city councils are in big trouble now. Voter fraud all over the ballot.”
(Sidebar: Trump has subsequently said that voting by mail in Florida is OK because the state “has got a great Republican governor, and it had a great Republican governor. Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott, two great governors. They’ve been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida is different from other states.” He still opposed vote-by-mail in other states – presumably with Democratic rather than Republican governors.)
The thing about Trump’s claim is that it’s, well, totally wrong. There is absolutely no difference in the process of obtaining an absentee ballot and voting by mail. It’s the same thing.
“Regardless of the terminology, elections experts say there is no difference between how ‘absentee’ and ‘mail-in ballots’ are treated.
“In 34 states and Washington, D.C., voters can use ‘no excuse’ absentee voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under no-excuse absentee voting, the voter does not need to attest that they will be out of the jurisdiction on Election Day, or that they cannot get to the polls because of an illness or disability.”
There is zero difference between how an absentee ballot is handled and a request for a mail-in ballot is handled. None. In concluding that Trump’s claim was “false,” Jacobson noted: “There is no distinction between absentee voting and voting by mail. All mail ballots, regardless of how they are requested, are treated the same once they’re cast, and they require verification before being counted.”
Even in the examples Trump regularly cites as alleged evidence of fraud in mail-in balloting, there’s no actual, well, fraud.
*In Virginia, a third party group did send out more than 500,000 absentee ballot applications with the wrong return address on them. But there’s zero proof for Trump’s claim that ballot applications “got sent to dogs, got sent to dead people.”
In New York’s 12th Congressional district, Rep. Carolyn Maloney won a Democratic primary after six weeks of counting mail-in ballots. Yes, the process was far too slow, but there is, again, zero proof that the incumbent “scammed her way into an election.”
The truth is that what Trump is engaging in here is misleading and selective outrage. He’s trying to make up a distinction between absentee and mail-in ballots solely because he uses the former. He can’t denounce the very system he has not only used in the past but is also using in this election. And so, he suggests, wrongly, that there is some sort of meaningful difference between absentee voting and vote-by-mail. Which, again, there is not.