Donald Trump continued to voice his opposition to expanded mail-in voting with a tweet on Sunday spreading falsehoods about the prevalence of fraud in the process, even though confirmed cases of voter fraud have been in the single digits in past presidential elections.
“The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history,” Mr Trump tweeted, the latest in a recent uptick of attacks on Democrats’ — and even many Republicans’ — desire to expand mail-in voting to mitigate health risks during the coronavirus pandemic.
“People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and ‘force’ people to sign. Also, forge names,” the president wrote, falsely, without citing any evidence to support such claims.
Mr Trump, who spent his succssion day in succession at a golf course over the holiday weekend as the death toll from the pandemic neared 100,000 has spent countless hours on Twitter and before reporters during his political career promoting unsubstantiated theories about rampant voter fraud in the US, which study after study has shown is extremely rare. The president has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that he would have beaten Hillary Clinton in the 2016 popular vote were it not for the “millions of people who voted illegally.”
Mr Trump’s own advisory commission on election integrity spent eight months, from May 2017 to January 2018, probing claims of voter fraud and did not turn up a single confirmed instance.
A Washington Post review of data from after the 2016 election found just four confirmed cases of voter fraud: three people who tried to vote for Mr Trump twice — and were caught — and an election worker in Miami who was caught trying to fill in a bubble on someone else’s ballot for a local mayoral candidate.
House Democrats passed a $3trn coronavirus response bill earlier this month that includes $3.6bn for election security, including expanded access to mail-in voting. The bill is expected to languish in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Mr Trump’s own party has been urging voters to send in mail-in ballots this November, even as he has called it “RIPE for FRAUD” and “corrupt.”
“Return the attached official Republican Party mail-in ballot application to avoid lines and protect yourself from large crowds on Election Day,” the RNC mailer read.
Still, Mr Trump and his campaign surrogates have claimed dating back to 2015 that voter fraud is an acute issue among Democratic voters, particularly among immigrant and minority communities — a theory that is without empirical merit but has been part of the GOP campaign playbook for decades.
The GOP is looking to make combatting voter fraud a central issue in the 2020 elections for the presidency and Congress after a federal court decided in 2018 to lift longtime restrictions on the Republican National Committee’s “voter security” operations after the Democratic National Committee successfully sued against some of the RNC’s activities in the early 1980s.
Republicans are aiming to recruit 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to observe polling places on election day this November to ensure there is no suspicious behaviour as Americans cast their ballots, The New York Times reported earlier this month.
The recruitment of volunteer polling monitors is part of a broader $20m ”voter security” push by Republicans for the 2020 elections.
Democrats have argued the initiative is a thinly veiled guise for intimidating and suppressing mostly minority voters.
“Even in the midst of a global health crisis, the GOP has resorted to using voter suppression as a tactic to win elections,” Guy Cecil, chairman of the liberal advocacy group Priorities USA, said in a statement last week.
“It is disgraceful that they have coordinated national efforts that force Americans to choose between their health and casting their ballots,” Mr Cecil said.