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Trump lays bare the Republicans' mail-in voting hypocrisy

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE warns that if voting is made easier for more people — especially some still frightened by the pandemic — “You'd never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

The president, who has been caught in thousands of lies, is saying what he really believes even if it's hyperbole. This may be an example of a political gaffe, which Michael Kinsley described as when a politician tells "some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say."

This is an especially critical issue now, as parts of the country could be imperiled by the novel coronavirus’s second strike in November; the harbinger might be this month's elections in Wisconsin, where there was a surge of absentee ballots — though in the confusion some were not counted, and others citizens were forced to choose between their health or in-person voting.

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A major fight is brewing in Congress over whether to provide states with real resources to craft alternatives — more voting by mail, simplifying absentee voting, opening more and less crowded polling venues. This is fiercely opposed by Trump and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE as they see it helping lower income voters of color, students and citizens with disabilities.

This reflects a lengthy list of Republicans efforts over the past decade to suppress voting among selective groups. With the help of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which tracks voter suppression, here are a few examples:

  • Texas required an ID to vote; a handgun license was OK, a student ID was not.
  • North Dakota required voters to show an identification with their residential address. But most Native Americans living on reservations don't have a street address.
  • Voting venues have been eliminated — often to the disadvantage of poorer Americans. In Georgia, for example, one third of the counties had fewer voting precincts and they are disproportionately African American and poor.
  • North Carolina Republicans in 2013 curtailed early voting days and eliminated Sundays, a day disproportionately used by African-Americans to vote. (Even more draconian elements of that state's voter suppression were thrown out by a federal appeals court which found that Republicans sought to "target African-Americans with almost surgical precision." )
  • Ohio removes voters from the rolls if they skip several elections and don't respond to a postcard.
  • Florida citizens voted overwhelmingly to give more than a million former felons the right to vote as most states do, but Florida Republicans, brushing aside the referendum, are insisting that felons only can vote if they have paid all their monetary obligations. This, in essence, is a work around the 1964 constitutional amendment outlawing a poll tax. 

This is all done in the name of preventing “voter fraud,” which itself is a fraud. Virtually every study or analysis — from academic research to organizations to foundations to state election boards — has found voting fraud in America is almost nonexistent. Trump appointed a commission, headed by Vice President Pence, to refute this overwhelming evidence; it bombed and disbanded.

Last month's stimulus bill, despite objections from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, allocated $400 million to the states to enhance voting procedures this fall, when the virus may return in force. That isn't nearly sufficient.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (D-Calif.) wants to add at least $2 billion more in additional measures, without requiring the budget-starved states to kick in. Ideally this should include mandates for voting by mail in the pandemic environment, but Republicans will do anything to stop that.

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The hypocrisy, of course, is that in states that already have mail-in voting — like Pennsylvania — the Republican Party is sending mailers to registered Republicans urging them to vote by mail. There’s obviously nothing inherently wrong or “corrupt” about the practice; they just don’t want it to spread.

Trump and McConnell, whose priorities always are money and power, could care less if there are more Wisconsins: On anything even approximating a level playing field, the odds are against Republicans winning the presidency and holding the Senate this November — so they're trying to tilt the field.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.