• April 17, 2021

Trump criticism too late: Swing states already have mail-in voting

 Trump criticism too late: Swing states already have mail-in voting

A box of ballots mailed in for the Washington state primary election are shown Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash. Washington is a vote-by-mail state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren/AP)

President Trump’s public disapproval of mail-in voting might come too late to make a difference for the 2020 election.

The six most important swing states for the Electoral College map — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina — all allow voters to request mail-in or absentee ballots for any reason. Large percentages of voters in Florida and Arizona, where voters can opt to receive ballots by mail automatically, have voted absentee for the last decade.

New laws enacted in the last two years in Pennsylvania and Michigan mean that more people in swing states will have access to mail-in ballots than in 2016.

The liberal policies allow many more people in critical states to vote than Trump would like. In a tweet Wednesday, the president indicated that he only approved of mail-in absentee ballots for “senior citizens, military, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day.”

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“These ballots are very different from 100% Mail-In Voting, which is ‘RIPE for FRAUD,’ and shouldn’t be allowed!” Trump wrote.

While none of the swing states have 100% vote-by-mail like Washington state and Oregon, the practice is expanding.

The Census Bureau estimated that about 1 in 5 voters cast a ballot by mail in 2016, up from 1 in 10 voters in 2000. In three major swing states — Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina — more than 65% of votes in the 2016 election were cast early in person, by mail, or absentee.

Trump’s criticism of mail-in voting comes as Democrats call for increasing the practice because of the coronavirus pandemic, while Republicans block the expansion.

Below are more details on mail-in and absentee voting laws for the six swing states.

Pennsylvania: Permanent mail-in voting by request

  • New law: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, signed a bill in 2019 that expanded mail-in voting, giving any voter the option to request a mail-in ballot by the Tuesday before an election. Voters can also request to be put on a permanent mail-in voter list and receive their ballots by mail for every election.
  • Strict deadline: Ballots must be received, not postmarked, by election officials by a specified time on the day of the election.
  • Who can return ballot: Those who qualify for emergency absentee ballots may designate someone else to return their ballot.
  • Push for more changes: Citing issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 69 Democratic committeemen in Pennsylvania signed a letter calling for the state government to send mail-in ballots to every voter automatically, whether or not they requested one, for the June 2 primary (which was delayed from April 28 due to the coronavirus).

Michigan: Absentee mail-in voting by request

  • New law: A 2018 statewide ballot initiative made every voter eligible to receive a mail-in absentee ballot without providing a reason why they need an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots were previously limited to those over age 60, those who are disabled, or those who said they would be out of town on the day of the election.
  • Strict deadline: Ballots must be received, not postmarked, by election officials by the close of business on the day of the election.
  • Who can return ballot: Only the voter, a family member or household member, or election official can return ballots to elections offices.
  • Context: Nearly 1 million people requested absentee ballots for Michigan’s March primary contests — a 76% increase over 2016. Just over 804,000 returned absentee ballots, a 60% increase over 2016.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is encouraging mail-in absentee voting for local elections taking place across the state on May 5.

Wisconsin: Absentee mail-in voting by request

  • Any voter can request a mail-in absentee ballot the Thursday or Friday before an election. Those who could have a difficult time getting to a polling place “due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability” can request an automatic permanent mail-in ballot for each election.
  • Strict deadline: Ballots must be received, not postmarked, by election officials by a specified time on the day of the election.
  • Who can return ballot: Unspecified.
  • Context: Wisconsin is the highest-profile battleground for mail-in voting laws brought to the forefront amid the coronavirus pandemic, hinting that Democrats may not be able to exert executive or emergency authority rather than passing new laws to expand mail-in voting this fall. In April 7 primary and local elections, ballots also were counted as long as they were postmarked by the day of the election and received by April 13. A Supreme Court decision the night before the day of the election struck down a district court decision that would have counted any absentee received by April 13.

Before 2016, mail-in absentee ballots would be counted as long as they were postmarked by the day of the election and received by the following Friday.

Arizona: Permanent mail-in voting by request

  • Voters can opt to be put on a permanent early voting list and automatically receive ballots for each election they are eligible to vote in in the mail, or voters can request a one-time mail-in ballot up to 11 days before the day of the election. Some local elections are all vote-by-mail elections. The automatic mail-in voting list has been in place since 2007, passed by a Republican legislature and signed by then-Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.
  • Strict deadline: Ballots must be received, not postmarked, by election officials by a specified time on the day of the election.
  • Who can return ballot: Lawsuits in progress. There is ongoing litigation over the state’s ban on “ballot harvesting.” A U.S. appeals court found in January that a law preventing anyone but a family member or caregiver from returning a ballot violated the Voting Rights Act, and the state’s attorney general is seeking to take the case to the Supreme Court.
  • Context: Mail-in voting is popular in Arizona. About 80% of Arizona voters receive their ballots by mail, according to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
  • Push for more changes: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs asked legislators to allow county officials flexibility to make elections during the coronavirus pandemic all-mail elections, but the Republican-controlled legislature adjourned without implementing changes. Last month, a Superior Court stopped Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes from sending mail-in ballots to every voter who was not on the permanent early voter list before the presidential primary.

Florida: Semipermanent mail-in voting by request

  • Voters can request a mail-in ballot up to 10 days before an election and can request that all ballots through the next two general elections be sent by mail. After that, the request must be made again.
  • Strict deadline: Ballots must be received, not postmarked, by election officials by a specified time on the day of the election.
  • Who can return ballot: Nearly anyone can return mail-in ballot request forms and completed ballots to election offices.
  • Context: Florida relaxed absentee voting restrictions and expanded mail-in voting after the 2000 election. Republicans in the state have effectively used mail-in voting to win elections. Republicans returned about 54,000 more ballots than Democrats in 2018. A large portion of Florida voters chose to vote by mail. About a third of votes cast in the 2018 and 2016 general elections, more than 8 million each year, were by mail.

North Carolina: Absentee mail-in voting by request

  • Any voter may request an absentee mail-in ballot up to seven days before the day of the election.
  • Less strict deadline: Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by the day of the election and received at least three days after the day of the election.
  • Who can return: Only the voter, a voter’s near relative, or election board-authorized individual may request an absentee ballot.
  • Context: In 2018, a Republican operative was charged with multiple counts of illegal ballot handling after he allegedly tampered with and “harvested” absentee ballots in a 9th District congressional election, causing the seat to remain vacant for months until Republican Dan Bishop won a 2019 special election. The scandal prompted law changes to allow only the voter, close relatives, or state-authorized individuals to request ballots.

 

 

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Editor @Investigator_51

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