OPINION: “The ballots are out of control,” Donald Trump on mail-in ballots


Anton Johnson

Due to the ongoing pandemic, many people plan to vote by mail. Photo courtesy of pexels.com

On Wednesday, a reporter asked President Trump if he could commit to a “peaceful transferal of power” if his re-election campaign fails.

“There won’t be a transfer, frankly, there will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control,” the president said.

President Trump has expressed fear of voter fraud by Democrats in the past, with several claims that have been debunked by news outlets.

During this year’s Republican National Convention, he said: “We have to be very careful because they’re trying it again with this whole 80 million mail-in ballots that they’re working on, sending them out to people that didn’t ask for them–they didn’t ask, they just get them and it’s not fair and it’s not right and it’s not going to be possible to tabulate in my opinion.”

Because of COVID-19, mail-in voting has been pushed by leaders as a way to maintain or increase turnout without the risk of increased COVID-19 infections. FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub posted an extensive Twitter thread in May to promote mail-in voting and disprove common misconceptions.

According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 39% of voters say they plan to vote by mail this election, while only 21% say they have typically done so in past elections.

Forty-seven percent said they support states allowing absentee ballots without requiring a reason. This is down from 56% in April, likely thanks to the stance the president has taken.

It’s potentially politically beneficial for President Trump to discourage mail-in voting. Republicans were more likely to vote by mail in the past, since older voters tend to be more conservative. But the pandemic and partisanship have changed things, and now 53% of Joe Biden’s supporters plan to vote by mail, according to the same poll.

Even before the pandemic, Republicans have resisted efforts to expand voting in recent years.

Last year, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed the For the People Act, which included provisions to create a national voter-registration program and reforms to campaign finance law, among other things.

The bill was never voted on by the Republican-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “The Democrat Politician Protection Act” in a statement where he deemed it “a recipe for turning the FEC into a partisan weapon.”

In 2018, Florida voted to restore voting rights for felons who had completed their sentences. The Republican state legislature then passed a law in 2019 to require those felons to pay all of their fines and fees to have their sentence considered complete.

Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, along with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, raised over $16 million to help pay off those fees. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who is a Republican, has now called for an investigation into Bloomberg’s efforts.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s model, the president has a 41.1% approval rating among polled adults. But if you adjust for “likely or registered voters,” his approval rating jumps to 43.9%, as of Sept. 25.

Potential electoral reforms like automatic voter registration would bring in more voters that President Trump doesn’t expect to vote for him. That line of thinking has influenced many of his stances, such as on D.C. statehood.

“You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No, thank you. That’ll never happen,” he said.

The most pessimistic of President Trump’s opponents worry that he won’t accept the results of the upcoming election. It’s possible that he will have the lead on election day, but end up losing when mail-in votes are counted.

In the midst of civil unrest, an electoral crisis would make 2020 an unprecedentedly difficult and consequential year. After the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, controversy over the country’s future is already being fiercely debated.