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Commentary: Trump's Lies About Mail-in Voting May Have A Hidden Purpose

mail in voting
Tony Dejak
A voter drops her ballot into a box outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Cleveland, the first major test of an almost completely vote-by-mail election during a pandemic.

The only fraud being perpetrated in the 2020 presidential election so far is the unmitigated nonsense being tweeted out on a nearly daily basis by the president of the United States.

Hang on, this involves way more capital letters than are necessary for Donald Trump to make his totally fraudulent point:

"There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that mail-in ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. "Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed."

Even Trump, as tenuous a grip on reality as he has, could not actually believe this nonsense.

If he did, don't you think he might have produced some evidence that what he says is being planned by his political enemies?

Instead he just threatens to withdraw federal funding from states like Michigan and Nevada, where Democrats run the election system, if they make it easier for people to vote by mail. Which he can't do, by the way. And which, by the way, has already been done in those states and many, many more.

So why is he doing this?

Perhaps he truly believes the myth that absentee mail-in ballots favor Democrats, despite multiple academic studies of voter behavior which have found there is no appreciable difference between the number of Democrats and Republicans voting by mail.

Or he may be trying to drive down the mail-in vote so GOP poll-watchers have more opportunities to challenge Democratic voters in key states.

Maybe he is trying to set the stage for a situation where, after losing to Joe Biden in November, he can point to a few swing states and say that the election was rigged (a term he has used in several tweets on the subject this week). Might he even hunker down in the White House and refuse to leave? Would he chance starting a devastating Constitutional crisis in this country that could destroy the electoral system?

The answer is yes, if he sees it as something that would benefit him. Clearly, he views everything through the prism of how it affects him.

If he loses his election, it is very easy imagining Trump claiming that the fix was in.

"If he doesn't get the result he wants, he will conclude that there must have been something wrong with the process,'' said David Niven, associate professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.

If he actually believed any of this nonsense about absentee balloting, this exchange from a Trump press conference on April 7 might have been quite different:

Trump: "I think mail-in balloting is horrible; it's corrupt."

Reporter: "You voted by mail in Florida's election last month, didn't you?"

Trump: "Sure. I can vote by mail."

Reporter: "How do you reconcile with that?"

Trump: "Because I'm allowed to."

It seems the vast majority of Americans have faith in mail-voting.  

A national poll by the Brennan Center for Justice in March found 80% of those polled believe everyone should have the option of mail-in voting, including 57% of Trump's fellow Republicans.

And speaking of Trump's fellow Republicans, the Hamilton County Republican Party is sending out a message to its voting base far different from the one coming from the Tweeter-in-Chief.

On June 6, a large group of GOP volunteers will fan out across the county to deliver literature to Republican households (no door-knocking, just a lit drop; this will be an event conducted under the pandemic guidelines).

The press release on the lit drop has a neat little cartoon that says It's OK to Vote This Way: Vote Absentee.

ok to vote this way gop
Credit Hamilton County GOP newsletter / Screenshot

"The Democrats do a better job of organizing absentee voters than we do and we need to catch up," said Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party. "I'd never want to see an all-absentee election. But we have to be competitive in this."

So if county party organizations can ignore Trump's warnings and no real evidence of fraud exists, why is Trump going on and on about this?

David Pepper, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, believes that Trump and his supporters want to tamp down the mail-in vote so they can put thousands of poll-watchers in Democratic polling places in key states to challenge voters, as they did in 2004. It caused long lines and chaos at polling places in a close presidential election won by George W. Bush.

"There has to be something else going on here,'' Pepper said. "There has to be more to this than just this irrational of mail-in voting."

politically speaking 2
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.