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Joe Henderson: GOP conspiracy theory about mail-in ballots doesn’t add up

History shows mail-in ballots are safe and don’t give either party the edge.

President Donald Trump‘s rant about online voting seems bizarre, even by his standard. But it’s really not. It’s just old-fashioned politics and planning ahead. He’s letting everyone know how he will protest the validity of the election if he loses in November.

He’s attacking states like California, Michigan, and Nevada for expanding vote by mail options.

What do those states have in common?

Democratic Governors.

In California, for instance, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered that every registered voter in the state receive a mail ballot. Polling places will be limited but open.

Trump railed that Newsom gave ballots “to anybody.”

He said illegals got them. Or that “anybody who walks in California” got one.

“Millions and millions of ballots to anybody in California that’s walking or breathing,” he said.

It’s not true. Besides, Trump won’t win California anyway.

Florida has a well-oiled mail voting system, but the President hasn’t said a word about our state. Oh, that’s right. Gov. Ron DeSantis is a Republican and Trump favorite.

What’s bizarre about Trump’s strategy is that he benefitted from mailed ballots in 2016, at least in our state.

In Florida, for instance, 1,080,808 Republicans voted by mail compared to 1,026,600 Democrats. Also, 101,529 more Democrats than Republicans failed to return their mail ballots.

Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes by only 112,911 votes. He probably can’t be re-elected in November without winning here.

The nonpartisan Stanford Institute For Economic Policy Research concluded that Republicans and Democrats benefit about equally from mail balloting.

In its report, the group said: “vote-by-mail does not appear to affect either party’s share of turnout. It doesn’t appear to increase either party’s vote share. And it only modestly increases overall average turnout rates.”

Yeah, but nothing grabs headlines like a boogeyman, and Trump seems to see them everywhere.

Well, everywhere when Democrats are in charge, that is.

Actually, though, there was a high-profile 2018 case of election fraud in North Carolina, but it involved a Republican.

GOP candidate Mark Harris appeared to win against his Democratic challenger by 905 votes, but the state elections board refused to certify the result. An operative for Harris faces three felony charges related to election cheating. The board ordered a new election, and Republicans held the seat anyway.

With COVID-19 on everyone’s mind, more people would choose the safety of voting at home. That’s especially true in Florida with its large elderly population.

We don’t know what the infection rate will look like in November. Thanks to social distancing, polling centers could have a different look than we’re used to. Fewer people allowed inside could mean more people waiting outside.

But, Trump supporters have latched on to the talking point and won’t let go. We all love a good conspiracy theory, don’t we?

And there’s this: The Tampa Bay Times reported that Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany voted by mail in Florida elections 11 times in the last 10 years. She grew up in Tampa.

Trump also voted by mail in the Florida Primary in March.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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