DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — President Donald Trump’s campaign and allies have blocked efforts to expand mail-in voting, forcing an awkward confrontation with top GOP election officials promoting the opposite in their states.
The rare dissonance between Trump and other Republican elected officials also reflects another reality the president will not concede: many in his party believe expanding mail-in voting could ultimately help him.
Trump’s campaign has intervened directly in Ohio, while allies have fired warning shots in Iowa and Georgia. Their moves are aimed at blunting Republican secretaries of state in places that could be competitive in November.
Action by these three secretaries of state, who are the top election officials in their states, was designed to make ballot access easier during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has railed against expanding vote by mail, arguing without evidence that the practice, despite being the primary voting method in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, is ripe for widespread fraud.
Last week, after Iowa voters broke a 26-year-old statewide primary election turnout record, the Iowa Senate’s GOP majority pressed to bar Secretary of State Paul Pate from sending absentee ballots to all two million registered voters this fall, as he did before the June 3 primary.
Last week, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed compromise legislation requiring Pate and his successors to seek approval from a partisan legislative council for similar future actions. The GOP-controlled council unanimously rejected Pate’s request to widely send absentee ballot applications this fall.
Trump carried Georgia, Iowa and Ohio comfortably in 2016. To win again, he would likely need to match his sizable winning margins in their rural counties, home to many in his older, white base.
Consolidation of rural polling places, shrunken election staff and long lines may deter rural voters vital to Trump, said University of California Irvine professor Richard Hasen, chair of a committee of U.S. scholars that has recommended changes ahead of the 2020 elections.
“The voters Trump is hurting are likely his own when he’s making these comments against mail-in balloting,” said Hasen, “because it’s a safe and generally effective way to cast a ballot, especially in the midst of a pandemic.”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden supports mail-in voting.