President Trump’s unfounded attacks on mail balloting are discouraging his own supporters from embracing the practice, according to polls and Republican leaders across the country, prompting growing alarm that one of the central strategies of his campaign is threatening GOP prospects in November.
Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the security of voting by mail, with Republicans saying they are far less likely to trust it in November. In addition, party leaders in several states said they are encountering resistance among GOP voters who are being encouraged to vote absentee while also seeing the president describe mail voting as “rigged” and “fraudulent.”
As a result, state and local Republicans across the country fear they are falling dramatically behind in a practice that is expected to be key to voter turnout this year. Through mailers and Facebook ads, they are racing to promote absentee balloting among their own.
In the process, some Republican officials have tried to draw a distinction between “absentee ballots,” which Trump claims are secure, and “mail ballots,” which he has repeatedly attacked. In fact, the terms are used interchangeably.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, describing a recent meeting with a group of Republican voters in Fort Payne, said he felt compelled to explain that there is only one kind of mail-in voting in Alabama, and that it is safe and secure.
“They were confused about two different kinds of mail-in balloting,” he said, “where one is ‘good’ and one is not.”
Merrill’s concerns were echoed by senior White House and campaign aides, as well as GOP operatives in numerous key states including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Iowa, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to criticize the president.