ATLANTA — President Donald Trump and his challenger, Joe Biden, have found something they agree on: The November election could be rife with corruption because of how officials handle the voting process.
Of course, the Republican incumbent and his Democratic rival place the prospective blame in different places. Each points at the other’s party.
“I really, really, really believe we’re on the cusp of what could be the most corrupt process that we’ve seen in a general election if we don’t monitor this every single second,” Biden told donors Tuesday evening as he discussed Trump’s and many Republicans’ opposition to expanding early voting and mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s similar language to what Trump has tweeted to his millions of social media followers in recent weeks. “Mail-in voting … will lead to the most corrupt election in USA history,” Trump declared Sunday.
The president previously argued that mail-balloting allows voters to “cheat.” One such tweet drew a rare, special tag from Twitter that directed readers to mail-voting facts that rebutted the president’s unsupported claims about voter fraud. There are instances of voter fraud in the U.S., most often found in local or smaller jurisdictional elections, but there is no evidence of widespread fraud that would tilt statewide or national results.
Biden noted Tuesday that Trump himself has voted using mail ballots, most recently using Florida’s absentee process to cast his Republican primary ballot in March.
Similar word choice aside, Biden’s and Trump’s disparate framing of voting by mail tracks the long-running, largely partisan fight over ballot access and election security. Republicans nationally have pushed aggressive culling of voter rolls, identification requirements that are arduous for some voters, and strict signature and witness rules for absentee ballots. GOP officials cast such rules as necessary fraud prevention; Democrats call them systemic voter suppression.
“We have got to keep ringing the bell about this all the way to the election,” Biden said, adding that his campaign and the Democratic Party have put together a team of hundreds of lawyers and volunteers to focus on voter protection and education. “It’s the greatest concern I have,” Biden said, “not just for my race, but for races up and down the ballot.”
Biden singled out Trump’s opposition to injecting federal aid into the U.S. Postal Service. “He’s talking about defunding the post office so they can’t deliver mail-in ballots,” Biden said.
The postal agency doesn’t actually get direct taxpayer support for normal operations, as Biden's dig suggested. But COVID-19 has devastated its already precarious finances, and Congress has considered an aid package. Trump’s White House blocked one bailout effort earlier this year and wants to attach strings to any taxpayer assistance.
At the time, Biden said that he believed Trump was pushing a narrative to cloud the results in November should the president lose. Biden went so far in that April 23 event as to suggest Trump might attempt to postpone the election. Biden offered no evidence of that claim.
Besides Trump’s opposition to mail ballots, Biden declared Tuesday that dozens of proposals from state lawmakers around the country amount to “Jim Crow-type efforts to restrict access to voting.” He did not elaborate. But he promised to “restore the Voting Rights Act,” the 1965 civil rights law that, until a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, required many Southern states and some counties outside the South to get federal approval for all changes to election rules and procedures.