Sam Levine, The Guardian, March 30, 2020
Donald Trump admitted on Monday that making it easier to vote in America would hurt the Republican party.
The president made the comments as he dismissed a Democratic-led push for reforms such as vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting as states seek to safely run elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Democrats had proposed the measures as part of the coronavirus stimulus. They ultimately were not included in the $2.2tn final package, which included only $400m to states to help them run elections.
“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox & Friends. “They had things in there about election days and what you do and all sorts of clawbacks. They had things that were just totally crazy and had nothing to do with workers that lost their jobs and companies that we have to save.”
Democrats often accuse Republicans of deliberately making it hard to vote in order to keep minorities, immigrants, young people and other groups from the polls. And Republicans often say they oppose voting reforms because of concerns of voter fraud – which is extremely rare – or concerns over having the federal government run elections. But Trump’s remarks reveal how at least some Republicans have long understood voting barriers to be a necessary part of their political self-preservation.
“I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative activist, said in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Trump’s Monday comments showed he saw voter suppression as part of his re-election strategy, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said in a statement Monday. “Ensuring that Americans can vote during the Covid-19 crisis is fundamental to maintaining our democracy. It is shocking that Trump is essentially admitting that when the American people vote, Republican lose,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a DNC spokeswoman. “Trump knows that suppressing the vote is the only way he and Republicans win in November.”
Shortly after he was elected, Trump falsely claimed he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes. There is no credible evidence to support the claim. In December, a Trump campaign aide was recorded saying: “Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places.” The aide later told the Associated Press he was saying that Republicans have traditionally been accused of voter suppression.
The $400m that Congress allocated so far is just a small fraction of what the Brennan Center for Justice estimated election officials need to run elections in November if coronavirus still lingers. Officials need that money to pay for postage, personnel and equipment to process an influx of mail-in ballots.
The urgency of getting election officials those resources should not be lost in the political fighting, said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center’s voting rights and elections program.
“What cannot be lost in all the back and forth among politicians is that election administrators at the state and local level need substantial resources now to ensure that the elections in November go off smoothly and safely,” she said.