Trump worries mail-in voting will sink his re-election bid: “My biggest risk”

“When you think the biggest risk to you is people voting, you might have bigger problems," a former Obama aide says

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published June 19, 2020 11:11AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Mail-in-Voting ballot (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Mail-in-Voting ballot (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump argued on Thursday that mail-in voting was his biggest concern in his re-election fight, race even as numerous new polls showed him trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by double digits.

Trump has baselessly alleged that mail-in voting favors Democrats and rife with fraud. Numerous studies have shown that voting by mail, which is already the primary voting method in five states and available to all voters in most others, does not favor any political party. Mail-in voting has extensive safeguards to protect from fraud, and a recent analysis found that just 0.0025% of votes cast by mail were possible instances of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased residents.

Despite evidence undercutting the claims, the Republican National Committee leads several lawsuits seeking to block expansions of mail voting.

"My biggest risk is that we don't win lawsuits," Trump told Politico. "We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don't win those lawsuits, I think — I think it puts the election at risk."

The president dodged a follow-up question about whether he would accept the results of the election if he loses.

"Well, you can never answer the second question, right? Because Hillary kept talking about she's going to accept, and they never accepted it," Trump told the outlet. "You know, she lost, too. She lost good."

Clinton conceded the day after the 2016 election.

"An American president shouldn't be scared of the American people," voting rights advocate Ellen Kurz, the founder of iVote, said in a statement to Salon. "And his dangerous attacks on options that allow people to exercise their right to vote safely in the middle of a pandemic just proves the biggest risk we could take is not expelling him from office in November."

The group recently launched a $20 million campaign aimed at educating voters about mail voting options and debunking false claims about mail voting ahead of the election.

Trump has repeatedly made similar claims about mail-in voting, which led Twitter to issue its first fact-check of his tweets. Trump went as far as threatening to withhold federal funds from Michigan after the state decided to send mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter. Some Trump supporters were seen burning their applications in protest.

Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub debunked numerous false claims made by Trump about mail-in voting in a lengthy Twitter thread.

"There's simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None," she wrote. "In 2016, roughly 1 in 4 voters cast their votes via mail-in ballot… Oregon has mailed out more than 100 million ballots since 2000, with about a dozen cases of proven fraud; a 0.000012 percent rate."

"In my state, I'll bet 90% of us vote by mail," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters last month. "It works very, very well, and it's a very Republican state."

Despite Trump's claims, numerous red states have moved ahead with their own expansions of mail-in voting. Only four states — Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana— are still fighting efforts to expand voting by mail. 

Trump has also baselessly claimed that mail-in voting "doesn't work out well for Republicans."

"You'd never have a Republican elected in this country again," Trump previously claimed on Fox News.

But a special House election held primarily by mail in California last month saw a Republican flip a Democratic seat in the state for the first time in more than two decades.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences found that voting by mail does not favor any one party.

"We find that universal vote-by-mail does not affect either party's share of turnout or either party's vote share," the researchers wrote. "These conclusions support the conventional wisdom of election administration experts and contradict many popular claims in the media. Our results imply that the partisan outcomes of vote-by-mail elections closely resemble in-person elections, at least in normal times."

Trump's concerns about mail voter fraud, despite an absence of evidence, come as polls show him trailing badly in his reelection race. After Trump threatened legal action over a CNN poll that showed him losing by 14 points, a new Fox News poll published this week found him trailing Biden by 12 points.

"When you think that the biggest risk to you losing re-election is people voting," said John Bisognano, a former Obama aide who now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, "you might have bigger problems."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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