Since the start of the pandemic, vote-by-mail has been expanded in multiple states. The debate over that expansion has grown increasingly surreal and politically contradictory. As they ramp up their own absentee ballot programs, aimed at their base, state and national Republican committees have sued to stop states from making vote-by-mail easier, conducted polling to suggest that voters want limits on the process, and highlighted stories about the difficulty of quickly implementing all-mail elections….
With the Republican-run Senate rejecting Democrats’ vote-by-mail funding proposals — and vehemently ruling out their ambitious election reform plans — the biggest election problem facing states is the cost and timing of mass ballot production. The political controversies have had more muted effects, because most of the states that previously threw up hurdles for absentee ballot voters have been quietly taking them down….
These new voting wars have played out even as Republicans, who enjoy a massive fundraising advantage over Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee, have stepped up their efforts to get their voters to request absentee ballots. A piece of mail for South Carolina Republicans, shared on Twitter by the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein, begins with a declaration — “I will NEVER support universal vote-by-mail” — and then explains how recipients can request and mail back their ballots. (“Sometimes conservatives have legitimate reasons to vote absentee.”) …
Still, while the president’s jeremiads go further than most Republicans are willing to, raising questions about universal vote-by-mail has slowed the momentum for Democrats’ preferred fix to the problem of holding safe elections during a pandemic. On Thursday, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, announced the formation of “VoteSafe,” a group that included both Michigan’s Democratic current secretary of state (whom Trump had picked a fight with) and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state (who Trump decidedly hadn’t). There was no talk of “universal” voting systems, just of “expanding absentee ballot options” with as little blue-on-red violence as possible.