Trump is attacking the very system that he used to vote absentee in New York in 2018 and in Florida in 2020. More than a dozen of his top allies and aides have also used vote-by-mail.
As his poll numbers have plummeted over the past few months, President Trump has waged an all-out war on the concept of vote-by-mail—an attack that is particularly ironic since he and several high-profile members of his administration have taken advantage of mail-in ballots themselves.
Trump has called voting-by-mail illegal (it’s not) and a scam (it’s not). He’s raged about it being a fraudulent system (it’s not) that is being used to rig the election against him (it’s not). He’s embraced conspiracy theories about nefarious forces co-opting mail-in ballots to kick him out of the White House (they’re not).
Trump’s baseless attacks come as many states have moved to expand vote-by-mail to accommodate residents concerned about voting in person during the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than encourage his voters to embrace the practice, Trump has called its legitimacy into question. The president has openly admitted his attacks on mail-in ballots are driven by a fear that he will lose in November if more people are able to vote.
In doing so, he is attacking the very system that he used to vote absentee in New York in 2018 and in Florida in this year’s primaries. More than a dozen of his top allies and aides have also sued vote-by-mail, according to the Washington Post and Associated Press.
That list includes:
- Vice President Mike Pence, who is still registered to vote absentee at the Indiana governor’s residence.
- First lady Melania Trump, who attempted to vote absentee for New York City mayor in 2017, but did not sign her envelope.
- Ivanka Trump, who tried to vote absentee for New York City mayor in 2017, but missed the deadline to return her ballot.
- White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who requested an absentee ballot for the New York City mayoral election in 2017, but didn’t use it.
- Attorney General William Barr, who despite raising concerns about mail-in ballots, voted absentee in Virginia in 2012 and 2019.
- White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who has voted by mail in Florida 11 times in 10 years.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who voted absentee in 2018.
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has voted absentee in Florida 15 times in the past 15 years.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has permanent absentee voting status in her home state of Michigan.
- Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who voted absentee in Michigan in four of the past five years.
- White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who voted absentee in New Jersey in 2018.
- Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, who voted absentee in Texas in 2018.
- Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of the Trump campaign, who has repeatedly voted by mail in New Jersey since 2016.
- Bill Stepien, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, who has voted by mail in New Jersey seven times since 2006.
- Nick Ayers, a senior campaign adviser who was previously chief of staff to Pence, has voted by mail in Georgia since 2014.
Even though the practice is apparently safe enough for Trump, much of the White House, and leading members of his campaign, the consequences of the president’s attacks on mail-in voting pose an enormous threat to November’s elections. A study from Dartmouth concluded that unfounded claims of fraud from Trump and his allies dramatically undermine confidence in the American election system, especially among Trump voters.
“You potentially jeopardize your own interest by ignoring the reality that there are literally millions of men and women who want to vote absentee,” Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and nation’s first homeland security secretary, told NPR last week.
Trump’s attacks on vote-by-mail have found few Republican allies and many local and state Republicans have echoed Ridge’s warning, expressing concern that Trump’s approach will backfire in November. Some local Republican officials have even continued to urge supporters to vote by mail during the recent primaries.
Still, Trump remains undeterred and continues to unleash attacks on the practice, the motives of which were clear to Ridge.
“I think it’s very sad and very disappointing that with almost five months to go, the president seems to [want to] try to delegitimize the November 3 election,” Ridge told NPR. “It just seems to me that this may be an indication he’s more worried about the outcome than he’s worried about fraud.”
That outcome is likely to be decided by millions of Americans who vote by mail, including many in Trump’s own orbit—and perhaps even Trump himself.