At a White House press briefing in early April, Donald Trump denounced mail-in balloting as "horrible" and "corrupt." It led a reporter to remind the president of an inconvenient detail: he voted by mail in the most recent 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."
The trouble, of course, is that many Americans also want to be allowed to. The president, apparently fearing the consequences of expanding voting access in his own country, has nevertheless become increasingly strident about condemning the same voting method he supports for himself.
And he's apparently not alone. The Tampa Bay Times reports today that White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has toed her boss' bogus line about postal balloting inviting fraud, but like the president, she's taken advantage of the convenience of vote-by-mail "time and time again."
In fact, the Tampa native has voted by mail in every Florida election she has participated in since 2010, according to a Tampa Bay Times review of her voting history. Most recently, she voted by mail in the state's March 2020 presidential primary, just as Trump did after he made Florida his new permanent home.
By way of an explanation, McEnany issued a statement this afternoon that read, "Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason. It means you're absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person. President Trump is against the Democrat plan to politicize the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud. This is a simple distinction that the media fails to grasp."
That's a more detailed response than I'd expected, so let's take a moment to unwrap it.
"Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason. It means you're absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person." This gets to the heart of the matter: Team Trump supports voting by mail, just so long as the White House deems the rationale legitimate. The debate is less about the act itself, and more about the motivation and reasoning behind the act.
If you want to vote in one state, even while living and working in a different state, Team Trump is comfortable with you casting a ballot through the mail. If you want to avoid a deadly pandemic, and prefer to cast a ballot from the safety of your own home, Team Trump is apparently convinced you're participating in some kind of nefarious scheme.
"President Trump is against the Democrat [sic] plan to politicize the coronavirus." Except, it's not just Democratic officials who advocate allowing Americans to vote by mail -- even the CDC has touted the public-health benefits of postal balloting -- and making it easier for the electorate to participate in their own electoral system is not what "politicization" means.
"President Trump is [against expanding] mass mail-in voting without a reason." But therein lies the point: we're in the midst of a pandemic. There is a reason -- a reason that's reasonably popular with the American mainstream -- to create opportunities for voters to cast ballots without crowding into polling places.
What's more, let's note for the record that Florida -- McEnany's and Trump's home state -- has allowed no-excuse absentee balloting for nearly two decades. It's not exactly a limited-government position to argue, "Americans can vote how they want, but only if the state finds their excuses compelling."
"[Mail-in voting] has a high propensity for voter fraud." Not in this reality, it doesn't. The White House suggested weeks ago it would produce some evidence to substantiate the claim, and so far, it's failed to do so.
There's no great mystery as to why: there is no evidence that mail-in voting has a high propensity for voter fraud. The whole argument is a thinly-veiled pretense, crafted because the president expects he'd lose if it became easier for Americans to participate in their own democracy.