Former President Donald Trump has consistently pushed lies about early voting being untrustworthy and rife with fraud. But as he gears up for his third presidential race in as many election cycles, his campaign aides are shifting toward promoting mail-in voting as a critical part of his election strategy.
According to reporting from The Wall Street Journal, Trump’s campaign now believes that such a shift is necessary, noting that Democrats used mail-in voting to help them win in 2020 and stave off losses in 2022. The campaign plans on encouraging Trump’s supporters to utilize the practice this election cycle.
During the 2020 election, Trump derided absentee voting as fraudulent, wrongly telling his supporters in campaign speeches that the method couldn’t be trusted.
Election experts had warned in the run-up to the election that it would appear that Trump was winning by a landslide as early results came in, but that the race would become much tighter as absentee ballots were counted. But after the race rapidly shifted in favor of Biden when mail-in ballots were counted on Election Day, Trump and his loyalists insisted, without evidence, that the system was “rigged.”
In one tweet from December 2020, Trump described mail-in ballots as “corrupt,” claiming our elections system is comparable to a “third world country” as a result of their use. In a tweet later that month, Trump claimed — despite evidence to the contrary — that it was “irrefutable” that mail-in ballots unjustly caused him to lose the election.
It is incredibly difficult for mail-in ballots to be manipulated, and elections experts consider them and other forms of early voting to be secure.
Trump’s advisers — perhaps recognizing that it’s hard to win an election without promoting every method of voting available — have told The Wall Street Journal that Trump will have a different strategy on voting in 2024. The campaign is currently studying state laws to determine ways for more Trump ballots to be counted, including examining regulations on ballot collecting that can be submitted by third parties.
While Trump has wrongly characterized such practices as “ballot harvesting,” he now appears to be embracing these methods, while still criticizing Democrats for doing the same.
In a recent fundraising email, Trump’s campaign told his followers that the “path forward” to winning in 2024 “is to MASTER the Democrats’ own game of harvesting ballots in every state we can.”
“Our presidential campaign will launch our own Ballot Harvesting Fund in the states where the Left has been cheating the system,” the email adds.
While Trump’s campaign has indicated that he will push for the use of voting methods he once condemned, it’s unclear whether any of his fundraising on the issue will actually go toward such efforts. As the House January 6 committee revealed in its investigation, Trump’s campaign has consistently used funds for purposes entirely different from what he promised in fundraising emails to his followers.
“Not only was there the Big Lie,” committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) said at a hearing in June, referring to Trump’s false claims of election fraud, “there was the Big Rip-Off.”
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