President Donald Trump used the painful situation playing out in Wisconsin's primary during the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday to attack mail-in voting as “corrupt” and boast about his 2016 general election victory in the state.
Some Democratic county leaders in Wisconsin fear that voters could be infected with the coronavirus, or even die, because of their decision to head to the polls Tuesday. On Monday, Republican leaders in the state successfully thwarted a late push by the state’s Democratic governor to push back the contest.
When a reporter asked Trump during a coronavirus task force briefing Tuesday who should be held responsible if people fall sick because they voted in person, Trump declined to take any blame despite his own call on social media earlier in the day to “get out and vote NOW.” He had urged voters to support his preferred candidate, the “highly respected Republican” Justice Daniel Kelly, in a hotly contested state supreme court race.
“Look, all I did was endorse a candidate,” Trump said. “I don't know anything about their lines. I don't know anything about their voting. I love the state. I won the state...I won the state which is rare for a Republican to do. But I won the state of Wisconsin. I'm going to win it again because we've been great to the people of Wisconsin, as you know, with our policies.”
Democrats fear that the pandemic and health fears will lead to low turnout and suppress some voters. Other states that had planned to hold a primary this month pushed back their contests because of the pandemic. A major push to do so in Wisconsin only gained steam in the last week, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Trump insisted the Democrats' move to delay the election was less about health concerns amid the pandemic, and more about him.
“Before I endorsed him they didn't want to change this voting area,” Trump said. “There was no problem with the Democrats voting until I endorsed the candidate. Then they said ‘let's move it two months, let's move it three months later. Safety, safety, safety.’ All of a sudden they want safety. Well before I did the endorsement they didn't talk about safety.”
Democrats and voters in Wisconsin have said in recent days they are fearful of what impact in-person voting will have on their state. A major push has been made to get absentee ballots returned, though issues with that form of voting still left some scrambling Tuesday.
Poll worker shortages had troubled state leaders in the last week, and the state’s major city of Milwaukee was left with only five “voting centers,” down from 180, according to a social media post by the city’s election commission. Long lines were feared, especially because of the risk it could pose to voters during the pandemic.
At one point, Trump said he had heard “the lines are through the roof.”
“So hopefully they're going to vote for the right candidate,” he said.
Trump also alleged once again that mail-in ballots, or absentee voting, creates election cheating and are “a very dangerous thing for this country cause they're cheaters.”
“The mail ballots are corrupt in my opinion,” he said, before going on to add later, “I think mail in voting is horrible. It's corrupt.”
But according to The Palm Beach Post, Trump himself had asked for a mail-in ballot for last month’s Florida primary.
When a reporter challenged the president over that during Tuesday's briefing, Trump appeared not to see any contradiction, saying "Sure, I can vote by mail."
“Well that's called out of state,” Trump said. “You know why I voted. Because I happen to be in the White House and I won't be able to go to Florida to vote.”
Trump maintained “there's a big difference,” even though a litany of issues, from employment to health concerns, can keep voters from casting a ballot in person. He then alleged widespread voter fraud, but did not offer any substantial evidence to back his claim.
“You get thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody's living room signing ballots all over the place,” Trump said. “No, I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing. I think if you vote you should go, and even the concept of early voting is not the greatest because a lot of things happen. But it's OK. But you should go and you should vote.”