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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

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“It shouldn’t be mail-in voting. It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself,” Trump told reporters Friday evening. Earlier this week on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” he claimed the Democrats had a plan “that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

More than 290,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the virus so far, prompting more than a dozen states to delay their presidential primaries. Health officials are warning that the virus has the potential to return with a second wave during the next flu season, putting voters and poll workers in a dilemma where fulfilling a civic duty means putting their health at greater risk.

Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington already provide registered voters with a ballot in the mail for all their elections, according to a Congressional Research Service report. California and Utah are among the states that give counties the option of mail-in voting.

Proponents say it can improve participation, particularly with voters who have to work on election day, go to school or have mobility issues, such as the elderly or the sick. It could reduce the number of poll workers needed, as well as the long lines that often arise during a presidential election.

“It just makes us more democratic,” Pelosi told reporters this week. “It just gives more people the opportunity to vote. So that is something we would like to see.”

Trump contends fraud would increase with more mail-in voting, declaring, “I think a lot of people cheat.”

Evidence shows it is Republicans, rather than Democrats, who are most likely to vote by mail.

Michael McDonald, University of Florida

A North Carolina congressional election had to be rerun last year because the Republican candidate’s campaign had engaged in widespread fraud through mail ballots.

But some Republicans have come to embrace the format, arguing it can be done securely and is cheaper and fairer than in-person elections. Utah, a GOP stronghold, is a recent convert to mail-in voting.

Evidence shows it is Republicans, rather than Democrats, who are most likely to vote by mail, said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks balloting.

State and local governments are responsible for determining whether or how to offer mail-in voting. A few bills introduced during the current session of Congress would require states to allow for early or mail-in voting for federal elections. Others would require states to allow mail-in voting during national emergencies and authorize the funds to help defray the costs.

The $2.2 trillion rescue package that Congress passed included $400 million for states to invest in the next election so they could expand early voting, move to mail-in voting, or increase safety measures at polling sites.

That’s a meager investment compared with the $2 billion that the Brennan Center for Justice recently said is needed to ensure the pandemic does not jeopardize a free and fair election.

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