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Trump falsely claims expanding voting access would hurt Republicans

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  • In a Monday morning interview on “Fox & Friends,” Trump said that congressional Republicans opposed expanding voting access in the coronavirus stimulus package because it would hurt them politically. 
  • The House’s version of the package would have required every state to hold early voting, establish no-excuse absentee voting, and mail out ballots in emergency situations. 
  • “The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
  • Not only do states with those provisions elect Republicans at every level, but evidence about non-voters doesn’t support Trump’s assertion that higher voter turnout would automatically benefit Democrats. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In a Monday morning interview on “Fox & Friends,” President Donald Trump explicitly said that congressional Republicans opposed expanding voting access in the coronavirus stimulus package because it would hurt them politically. 

The stimulus package presented by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives included several provisions that would require states to expand options for voters to safely cast ballots.

The bill would have mandated that states offer 15 days of early voting prior to every election, allow voters to request an absentee ballot without an excuse, and send a mail-in ballot to every voter in an emergency situation where holding in-person elections would be logistically unfeasible or dangerous. 

But Republicans in Congress accused Democrats of using the crisis specifically to pass their own pet projects through Congress. Some, like GOP Congressman Thomas Massie, even argued the expanded voting access measures would be “the end of our Republic as we know it.” 

On “Fox & Friends,” Trump went several steps further by directly suggesting that Republicans shot down those measures specifically because they would increase voter turnout and make it harder for the GOP to win elections. 

“I will tell you this, when you look at the before and after, the things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again, they had things in there about election days, and what you do…and it was totally crazy.”

 

Trump’s expressed belief that making it easier for Americans to vote hurts Republicans is inaccurate and baseless for several reasons. 

In the status quo, 38 states have some form of early voting, 35 allow voters to request an absentee ballot without a documented excuse, and five states (Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii), conduct all their elections almost entirely by mail. 

All those states, however, including the ones that exclusively vote by mail, still elect Republicans in nearly every level of government. Utah especially has long been a Republican stronghold despite relying on vote by mail. 

Over the past decade, Republican-controlled state legislatures have invoked several different policies to make it more difficult for people to vote, including burdensome voter identification laws, closing down polling places, and enacting laws that specifically target college students and add hurdles to their voter participation. 

But so far, the available evidence about non-voters doesn’t support Trump’s assertion that higher voter turnout would automatically benefit Democrats. 

A 2019 New York Times meta-analysis of voter file, census, and polling data from registered voters in swing districts found that the prevalent assumptions that non-voters would back Democrats if they turned out to vote may not hold in 2020, partly because of college-educated voters swinging to Democrats and white, non-college educated voters overwhelmingly backing Trump.

The Times said that while Democrats saw the upper limits of how an increase in voter turnout could benefit them in the 2018 midterms, white, working-class voters who did not vote in 2018 are “likeliest to return to the electorate in 2020, and it could set back Democrats in crucial battleground states.”

As The Time noted, non-voters and especially Americans who aren’t registered to vote at all are chronically under-represented in public opinion surveys, making it difficult to gauge how they would. 

But The Times’ polling of voters in 2018 battleground districts and estimates based on voter file data found that Trump’s approval ratings were nearly the same among voters and non-voters, suggesting that non-voters aren’t necessarily more anti-Trump than those who did cast ballots. 

A February 2020 survey on 12,000 non-voters conducted by the Knight Foundation further found that while non-voters narrowly lean Democratic as a group and in swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin by one and two percentage points respectively, they favor Trump by greater margins in other battleground states.

Non-voters indicated that if they did vote in 2020, they would back Trump by a margin of eight percentage points in Pennsylvania and five percentage points in Florida, two states Trump carried in 2020. 

And in the context of the coronavirus crisis, expanding early voting and vote-by-mail would greatly benefit older voters over the age of 65, who the CDC say are most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, lean more Republican than younger generations, and backed Trump 53% to 45% the 2016 election. 

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