USA Today: Return to sender: Trump’s strategy on mail ballots divides party before GOP convention
USA Today: Return to sender: Trump's strategy on mail ballots divides party before GOP convention
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s sustained criticism of mail-in ballots is dividing his party ahead of the Republican National Convention this week amid new signs it may be discouraging his own voters as much as it is the Democrats.
A USA TODAY review of mail ballot requests in several battlegrounds shows Democrats appear to be gaining an advantage in states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida as Trump hammers away with allegations of fraud.
The growing chasm between the president’s rhetoric on vote-by-mail and what on-the-ground Republicans see as a central component of their turnout strategy could make for a tricky dynamic at this week’s GOP convention, where the party wants to build excitement to increase turnout, not depress it. …
Trump’s attacks on mail ballots have been leveled in tandem with a broader, coordinated Republican strategy that has taken shape as both parties prepare for a legal firefight over voting that experts predict will only intensify in coming weeks.
The Republican National Committee earmarked $20 million last year for its election legal effort. Party officials published a website echoing the president’s accusation that Democrats are trying to “eliminate nearly every safeguard.” And outside conservative groups have run advertising on the issue, including in battleground states. …
Critics counter that Trump is less worried about fraud than he is about setting the stage to challenge the election if the result is extremely close or if early returns appear to favor Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Election experts say that Trump is correct that the expected huge increase in mail ballots could significantly delay results, but they say such a delay would be an indication of the system working, meticulously, through vote counting.
Mailed ballots always take time to count, and races called on Election Day are usually projections based on in-person returns. This year, because of the pandemic, there will be a lot more mail ballots to count.
“What he’s laying the groundwork for is for his supporters to believe that the election is not properly conducted so they rally behind him when or if he challenges the results,” predicted Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause.