Voting rights advocates, political commentators, and elected officials expressed alarm Tuesday after President Donald Trump used Twitter to continue his monthslong baseless attack on the security of mail-in voting with just over a hundred days before the November general election, when he is expected to face off against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
"He is preparing the rigged election narrative."
—Daniel Sandford, BBC News
"This is a flashing red light. Be prepared," MSNBC political analyst Richard Stengel responded to the president. Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan called Trump's commentary on mail-in voting "an unprecedented attack on the legitimacy of our electoral system by a sitting president."
The tweet notably came after Trump, in an interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace that aired Sunday, said he thinks mail-in voting is going to "rig" the November election and refused to commit to accepting the results, which elicited similar concerns to his comment Tuesday.
With Trump's latest tweet, warned BBC News correspondent Daniel Sandford, "he is preparing the rigged election narrative."
Brian Fallon of the advocacy group Demand Justice wrote on Twitter Tuesday: "Does anyone have confidence in John Roberts and the Republican justices on the Supreme Court to not side with Trump on any election dispute that arises between now and November? If so, it is misplaced."
Chris Lu, a senior fellow at the University of Virginia's Miller Center who held multiple positions in the Obama administration, pointed out to Twitter's support staff that Trump's tweet resembles a pair of the president's posts from May to which the social media company added fact-check labels.
Hey @TwitterSupport, this tweet is very similar to Trump's tweets on May 26
Your spokesperson said those earlier tweets “contain[ed] potentially misleading information...and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots"
Same should be done here https://t.co/CHKZySW0m6
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) July 21, 2020
While rights advocates have long called for the expansion of mail-in voting on a national level, those demands have taken on added weight due to regional lockdowns and social distancing practices necessitated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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Advocates are still pressuring the Republican-controlled Senate to urgently pass the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, legislation approved by the Democrat-held House that included $3.6 billion in funding to help states hold fair and safe elections this year.
As advocates have ramped up their calls to expand access to the ballot during the pandemic, Trump has doubled down on his attack of mail-in voting—despite the fact that, as critics have repeatedly emphasized, the president has voted by mail himself.
"#VoteByMail is safe and secure," tweeted Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.). "[Trump's] attempts to mislead the American public on this are not based on facts. They are dangerous and misguided. It is #VoterSuppression during the #Covid19 pandemic."
Author David Litt, who served as a speechwriter for former President Barack Obama, declared that "Trump's claims around mail-in voting aren't just false—they're a type of election fraud," linking to a Monday op-ed for the Washington Post in which he made that case about Trump's earlier remarks to Wallace.
In his piece for the Post, Litt detailed Republican-led efforts in states across the country to exclude voters with purges of the registration rolls, photo identification rules, "signature matching" requirements that enable poll workers to discard ballots after they are cast, long lines, and other tactics.
According to Litt:
These actions put into context the statements made recently by Attorney General William P. Barr, and echoed by Trump, that mail-in voting will lead to foreign countries flooding our postal system with counterfeit ballots. These are not serious or good faith claims. Nor are they solely designed to cast doubt on the November elections. They are an attempt to win that election under false pretenses, by subtracting valid votes, and barring eligible Americans from the electorate.
False claims of voter fraud like the ones coming from the White House are, sadly, legal. But they are nonetheless a form of election fraud. Unlike voter impersonation or mail-in ballot malfeasance, this kind of fraud is real, it's common, and it can change the course of our country. We should stop treating these outlandish claims as mere bluster or conspiracy theory, and start treating them as the threats to democracy they are.
Other critics of Trump have tied the president's persistent lies about mail-in voting to what some have called "Trump's attempted murder" of the U.S. Postal Service with sweeping changes that could slow delivery.
"REMINDER: he's not just throwing another Twitter tantrum about this," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Calif.) said Tuesday about Trump's tweet. "As we speak, he and the crony he installed as Postmaster General are actively destroying the #PostalService so you can't vote by mail."