How Trump's false attacks on mail-in voting could backfire on him

How Trump's false attacks on mail-in voting could backfire on him
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If the United States had a nationwide alert system for presidential falsehoods, Trump’s claims about mail-in voting would trigger a QAnon red alert-level warning. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE insists that “millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries,” which will result in a “rigged” election. The ever-pliant Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBarr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' MORE echoed Trump by saying that “there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in.”              

But Trump may have told one falsehood too many because this one, perhaps his biggest ever, could well cost him critical votes.


But first, here is why it is a patently false claim. No country could ever pull off anything like this, let alone do it “easily.” According to election experts, a foreign country would first have to steal detailed information about millions of voters, such as the last several digits of a driver’s license and the millions of voter signatures on file with American boards of election. Then the country would have to fabricate exact copies of ballots that differ not just from state to state, but from locality to locality. There are “hundreds of thousands of unique ballot styles within the United States,” according to Jennifer Morrell, a former election official.  

The foreign country would also have to duplicate the same paper stock used in a given state or locality; replicate the bar codes used on many state ballot envelopes; and precisely forge millions of individual voter signatures on millions of ballots (and potentially millions of witness signatures). Sounds easy, right?

Wait, there’s more. Even if a country gets that far, the scheme is doomed to fail. Once the real voters mail in their ballots, election officials will discover millions of twin ballots, one from the real voter, the other the ballot forged using that voter’s stolen information. It won’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happened and only count the ballots from the real voters. “The kind of fraud the President and Attorney General described is farcical,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science and author of "The Voting Wars." “It cannot happen.”  

No wonder the FBI says it has “no information about any nation state” engaging in such a preposterous scheme. No wonder that Trump and Barr haven’t produced any evidence. The scheme doesn’t exist.  

Donald Trump’s contempt for facts has never been on starker display than in his mail-in ballot claim. But in his apparent drive to delegitimize a Biden election victory, Trump may actually damage his own, currently flagging, electoral prospects.     


That’s because the voters taken in by this whale of a falsehood are largely his own. According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 78 percent of Trump’s backers accept his argument about the dangers of mail-in voting, while only 28 percent Biden’s supporters were persuaded. Since so many Trump voters believe that mail-in ballots are radioactive, the only way they can vote for him is to brave the coronavirus pandemic by going to a polling place.        

But will they, especially COVID-wary seniors? Infectious disease experts are warning of a cold-season coronavirus surge in the fall that begins building before Election Day. According to an account in Axios, the concern that seniors might stay home on November 3 for fear of COVID led House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyThompson says he hopes Jan 6. committee can complete work by 'early spring' Juan Williams: Shame on the anti-mandate Republicans White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE (R-Calif.) to warn Trump that his attack on mail-in voting will hurt him and other Republican candidates in November.   

“I tried to show him,” McCarthy told an Axios reporter, “you know who is most afraid of COVID? Seniors? And if they’re not going to go vote, period, we’re screwed.”  

Donald Trump’s biggest falsehood could bring him down. Sounds like justice to me.

Gregory J. Wallance, a writer in New York City, was a federal prosecutor during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He is the author of the historical novel, “Two Men Before the Storm:  Arba Crane’s Recollection of Dred Scott and the Supreme Court Case That Started The Civil War.” Follow him on Twitter at @gregorywallance.