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April 5, 2020, 12:57 p.m. EDT

Trump, Republicans resist calls for widespread use of mail-in ballots as coronavirus pandemic persists

House Speaker Pelosi says providing more voters the opportunity to safely cast ballots increases democracy; counters Trump: ‘I think a lot of people cheat’

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By Associated Press


Associated Press
A Seattle voter drops off a ballot in the Washington state primary last month.

WASHINGTON (AP) — While Wisconsin struggles to hold its primary on Tuesday, President Donald Trump and Democrats are bickering over how to provide voters with safe and secure access to a ballot as the coronavirus pandemic rages in the U.S. and threatens to extend into the fall, affecting the general election.

With another economic rescue package in the works, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants money to give more voters the chance to cast their ballot by mail, an option that would allow people to vote without the concern over the safety of polling places.

But Trump opposes voting by mail and is leading Republicans in a battle to limit its use, arguing that it would lead to so many people voting that his party could not win and encourage fraud.

See: Pelosi seeks more funding for U.S. Postal Service as Democrats warn of ‘crisis’ for agency

Plus: Brace for more voting by mail because of coronavirus — and other logistical challenges facing election officials

But the 2020 presidential election is creeping ever closer, and there are no signs yet of the pandemic abating, nor any word on when Americans on orders to stay home can resume normal life, so lawmakers are trying to figure out how to allow for voting in a world where face-to-face contact causes anxiety at the least and possibly sickness and death.

‘It shouldn’t be mail-in voting. It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself.’

President Donald Trump

The debate is playing out now in Wisconsin. It stands apart from other states that have delayed primaries because of the virus, though Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

Evers initially joined Republican leaders in seeking to hold the primary as planned on Tuesday, but he now favors an all-mail election with absentee voting well into May. Republicans maintain that in-person voting should go on as planned and have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block extended absentee voting.

See: Trump campaign adviser tells Wisconsin Republicans in secret recording that voting-place tactics will be stepped up

The election features the Democratic presidential primary between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but a bigger concern for Republicans is a state Supreme Court race that pits a conservative incumbent against a liberal challenger.

In recent weeks, as Democrats nationwide have argued the country must prepare for voting largely by mail, Republicans have objected to or blocked expansions of such voting in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

‘It just makes us more democratic. It just gives more people the opportunity to vote. So that is something we would like to see.’

Nancy Pelosi, House speaker

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