There’s a major complication in President Donald Trump’s recent crusade against voting by mail, which he has called “a scam” that will lead to “the greatest Rigged Election” in history: In states that Trump desperately needs to win this fall, Republicans love it.
Take Arizona, where polls show Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden after he carried the state narrowly in 2016. Republicans pioneered Arizona’s mail-in balloting system, which now accounts for about 80 percent of the state’s vote. “It’s been remarkably successful,” Chuck Coughlin, a longtime GOP operative and a onetime aide to the late Senator John McCain, told me. “There’s been minimal to no fraud for a long period of time.”
Republicans say the same in Florida, the quadrennial swing state where voting by mail has become more and more popular in recent years, especially with older GOP voters. (One of the older GOP voters who uses the system is Trump himself.) “Yes, Florida Republicans over the last two decades have dominated absentees,” Joe Gruters, the state’s party chairman, told me.
Trump’s unrelenting attacks on the integrity of mail-in voting are puzzling for a variety of reasons, not least because they are unfounded. But they’re particularly awkward for Republican leaders—especially those allied with the president—who need their voters to continue using a system Trump is trying to discredit. The president has, for example, gone after Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, for mailing absentee-ballot applications to every voter in the state as part of an effort to avoid depressed turnout due to the coronavirus pandemic. But GOP leaders in several other states have done the same thing.