Records suggest Trump error may have constituted accidental fraud

Donald Trump tried to register to vote in Florida while using an out-of-state address -- which he cannot legally do.
Image: The Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 11, 2018.
The Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 11, 2018.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file
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By Steve Benen

In September 2019, Donald Trump announced that he was done with New York. The president would, going forward, be an official Florida resident. He even voted in March using his new address in Palm Beach.

But when he filed the paperwork on his voter registration, there was a problem: Trump listed the White House as his "legal residence," while simultaneously signing a document that said he was also a "bona fide resident" of Palm Beach.

Or put another way, the president tried to register to vote in Florida while using an out-of-state address -- which he cannot legally do. The Washington Post reported on this today, noting that state officials flagged the discrepancy and allowed Trump to redo the paperwork.

And while bureaucratic slip-ups generally aren't worth making a fuss about, people have faced legal consequences for doing what the president apparently did.

Last year, the city manager of Deltona, Fl., entered into an agreement with the local state's attorney's office to pay more than $5,000 in fees and reimbursements for the state's investigation to avoid being prosecuted on criminal charges in a voter-registration case. She had registered to vote using the address of Deltona's City Hall, rather than her home address, and had cast ballots in elections using that registration. In Palm Beach, where Trump has registered to vote, there was a high-profile arrest in 1993 of a popular restaurateur who was charged with voter fraud and briefly jailed because he registered to vote in Palm Beach but lived in the neighboring city of West Palm Beach.

To be sure, it's easy to see how the president could've made this mistake, which is rather trivial when compared to some of his more outrageous offenses. He does, after all, live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- at least for now.

But let's not brush past the revelations too quickly. For one thing, when the same politician who obsesses over voter fraud, as if it were an actual societal scourge, makes this sort of mistake, it should prompt Trump and other Republicans to reflect a bit about non-presidents who make similar errors and face real punishments.

For another, Trump told governors this week, "I live in Manhattan." It raised the prospect of the president living in New York, temporarily residing in D.C., and registering to vote in Florida. It led election lawyer Marc Elias to note soon after, "Sounds like New York may have a good claim for taxes. And Florida for voter fraud."

And in case that weren't quite enough, the Washington Post reported last month that Trump "agreed in writing years ago" that his Mar-a-Lago property would be "a private club owned by a corporation he controls," not a residence. He nevertheless is using the club as his residential address in legal documents.

Maybe he should've stuck with Trump Tower.