President Donald Trump, who has for the past several months repeatedly made unverified and dubious claims about fraud associated with mail-in voting, authored a tweet on Tuesday urging voters in his home state of Florida to vote by mail if that’s what they wanted to do.
“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” Trump said.
The president elaborated in his social media posting that the Sunshine State’s voting system “has been cleaned up,” alleging without evidence that Democratic lawmakers there had tried to make the system less secure.
“I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!” Trump added.
The tweet contradicts a number of statements that Trump has made since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, when many began touting mail-in voting as a means to cast ballots without having to physically appear at ballot boxes. In April, for example, Trump described the practice as “horrible” and “corrupt.”
When it was pointed out that he himself had benefited from voting through the mail, the president justified it by saying that he was voting absentee — a distinction that many say is nonexistent as it’s the same as mail-in voting.
“Sure I can vote by mail … because I’m allowed to,” Trump said at the time.
In a tweet on July 30, Trump again tried to say mail-in voting and absentee voting were different, and even called for possibly delaying the 2020 federal elections because of unsubstantiated claims of fraud he said were inherent in mail-in voting.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump wrote in a tweet.
“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?” he added at the end of the Twitter posting.
On the same day that the tweet was written by the president, however, Trump’s lawyers acknowledged in court documents that voting by absentee ballot was no different from what he described as mail-in voting.
Noting that some states use the terms differently, Trump’s legal team wrote in a briefing that “the terms ‘mail-in’ and ‘absentee’ are used interchangeably to discuss the use of the United States Postal Service to deliver ballots to and from electors.”
Trump’s campaign team has also promoted mail-in voting in states like Wisconsin. With both Florida and Wisconsin being so-called “swing states” in this year’s presidential race, some might speculate that Trump is making the push for mail-in voting in locations where it might benefit him electorally, while trying to bad-mouth the practice in other, especially “blue” states.
Trump’s tweet on Tuesday appears to be evidence that the president himself understands that there’s no difference between mail-in voting and absentee ballots.
There is no evidence to suggest that voting by mail is rife with fraud, as Trump has claimed. Indeed, one analysis demonstrated only 31 ballots were fraudulent among billions of ballots sent through the mail during a 15-year period.
Some believe there are possibly more worrisome reasons behind Trump’s attempts to make mail-in voting seem fraudulent.
“In the face of COVID-19, states are expanding absentee voting and, in some cases, vote-by-mail,” FiveThirtyEight elections analyst Geoffrey Skelley recently said. “But the president is making the case that mailed ballots are illegitimate and highly vulnerable to fraud — this is not true, of course, but by casting aspersions, he’s setting up the potential for delegitimizing the results as they come in, on and after Election Day.”