Despite Trump's opposition, support for mail-in voting grows

Trump has tried to turn the public against mail-in balloting. New polling suggests those efforts still aren't working.
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An election workers sorts vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential primary at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on March 10, 2020.Jason Redmond / AFP - Getty Images file

The White House and its allies have invested a fair amount of time this month trying to convince the public that postal balloting is a bad idea. The latest Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll suggests those efforts aren't working.

Americans' support for mail-in voting has jumped amid concerns about the safety of polling places during the coronavirus pandemic, but a wide partisan divide suggests President Donald Trump's public campaign against vote by mail may be resonating with his Republican backers.

The results include quite a bit of data -- and significant partisan differences -- but the number that stood out was the 60% majority who expressed support for "allowing people to vote by mail-in ballot, instead of in-person, without requiring them to give a reason."

This is roughly in line with the results of the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which found 58% of American voters expressing support for changing election laws to permanently allow voting by mail. When we add in those who support temporary changes to allow postal balloting during the coronavirus crisis, the total climbs to 67%.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, these are not the kind of results Donald Trump wanted to see. After all, the president recently denounced mail-in balloting as "horrible" and "corrupt," which led a reporter to remind Trump of an inconvenient detail: he voted by mail in the election cycle. Offered a chance to reconcile the contradiction, it didn't go well.

"Sure, I can vote by mail," Trump declared. "Because I'm allowed to."

Evidently, quite a few Americans think they should also be allowed to.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently said it's "disgusting" to see Democrats advocate in support of voting by mail during a pandemic, though that apparently isn't proving persuasive with the American mainstream, either.

This isn't just an academic exercise or a fight for bragging rights. Congress is poised to have another fight over an academic aid package, and it's a safe bet that Democratic leaders are going to push quite aggressively for provisions on holding safe and fair elections. The CDC has touted the benefits of voting by mail during a public-health crisis.

The fact that the public supports postal balloting is likely to increase the pressure for possible action.

Postscript: Asked for evidence to substantiate his claims that mail-in voting increases instances of "fraud", Trump recently told reporters, "I think there's a lot of evidence, but we'll provide you with some, okay?"

That was nearly three weeks ago. So far, neither the president nor anyone on his team have substantiated the claims.

Second postscript: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared on MSNBC this morning and said, in reference to the next economic aid package, “In this next bill, we will be supporting vote by mail in a very important way -- we think it’s a health issue at this point."