Trump launches effort to promote mail voting ahead of November

Former President Trump’s campaign is launching an effort to overcome a long-standing bugaboo: Mail-in and early voting.

Trump’s outreach team, working with the Republican National Committee, launched “Swamp the Vote” this week to soothe voter concerns about the integrity of nontraditional voting methods, including those previously stirred by the candidate himself.

“We must swamp the radical Democrats with massive turnout,” Trump said in a statement on the new initiative to counter President Biden in their rematch this fall. “The way to win is to swamp them, if we swamp them with votes they can’t cheat.”

Through existing voter outreach methods, voters will receive information on their states’ voting options and will be encouraged to vote early, if possible, to prevent inconveniences and unexpected obstacles to in-person voting on election day, according to the campaign.

“You need to make a plan, register, and vote any way possible,” Trump said in a video launching the effort.

It’s a striking about-face on processes that Trump has openly loathed in the past.

“I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,” the then-president told reporters during an April 2020 news briefing in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, warning that “all sorts of bad things can happen” during the mail-in process.

States encouraged voters to seek out alternative voting methods, including mail-in ballots, in 2020 to keep people safe from the disease, but Trump urged his voters to ignore the warnings and show up to the polls that November.

“It shouldn’t be mail-in voting. It should be: You go to a booth, and you proudly display yourself,” Trump said.

Trump pivoted to preemptively questioning the election’s integrity as his polling figures sagged in the waning days of the campaign.

“This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” he said in a June 23 speech, foreshadowing his ultimate refusal to accept the election outcome, which led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Mail-in and early voting options have long been a target of critics — mostly conservatives — who argue that they could be used to facilitate voter fraud, though no evidence has shown widespread improper influence over election outcomes.

A Pew poll released in February found that 57 percent of people surveyed said they think voters should be allowed to vote by mail if they want to. Three out of four people surveyed said they support early, in-person voting periods for at least two weeks before traditional election day.

But the survey also found a deep partisan divide on the issue, which has grown in the four years since Trump’s election loss. About 84 percent of Democrats that Pew surveyed said they think anyone should be able to vote by mail without excuse. Just 28 percent of Republicans said the same — down from nearly 50 percent who said they supported vote-by-mail options in 2020.

Research from the MIT Election Data and Science Lab earlier this year showed a dramatic turn in the past three decades from in-person voting on election day to non-traditional methods, such as mail-in voting.

As the coronavirus pandemic raged in the 2020 election cycle, more states encouraged alternative voting methods to keep people safe. It marked the first year that more people cast ballots by mail than in person on Election Day. The research found 43 percent of ballots were mailed in, and 26 percent of voters participated in person on an alternate date. Fewer than a third of ballots were cast in person on Election Day.

During the 1996 presidential election cycle, nearly 90 percent of voters cast their ballots in person on Election Day, while fewer than 8 percent voted by mail. Just over half of voters cast in-person ballots during the 2016 presidential election cycle, while nearly 40 percent voted by mail or in person early.

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