President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots — a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself.
In several primaries this spring, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. And when they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots, according to multiple strategists. In one particularly vivid example, a group of Michigan voters held a public burning of their absentee ballot applications last month.
The growing Republican antagonism toward voting by mail comes even as the Trump campaign is launching a major absentee-ballot program in every competitive state, according to multiple campaign advisers — a delicate balancing act, considering what one strategist described as the president’s “imprecision” on the subject.
“It’s very concerning for Republicans,” said a top party operative who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing Trump’s ire. “I guarantee our Republican Senate candidates are having it drilled into them that they cannot accept this. They have to have sophisticated mail programs. If we don’t adapt, we won’t win.”
The president, however, has been arguing the opposite. Nearly daily in recent weeks, and usually on Twitter, Trump has attacked mail balloting, leveling many unsubstantiated allegations. He has claimed without evidence that it will lead to widespread fraud and that foreign governments will try to dump millions of forged ballots into U.S. elections. He has accused Democrats of using the pandemic to expand mail balloting for political gain.