“I think it’s fine,” Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Republican Party leadership team, said of the expansion of mail-order voting in her state. “It worked well in Nebraska. We had a large turnout in the primaries in May. There were no problems that you have heard from our secretary of state. It worked well.”
Fischer joined other Republican senators on Monday who said they did not believe that more mail ballots, which has expanded in the states in recent years and has accelerated since the coronavirus outbreak began, would unfairly manipulate elections.
On Monday, Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri told CNN that he supports states that expand voting by mail. As chair of the Senate Rules Committee, Blunt helps oversee the elections and answered “no” when asked if he thought the President should say that the upcoming 2020 elections could be rigged. Blunt added that states that “drastically change” their systems to include more mail ballots present a “challenge.”
Blunt added: “I am” when asked if he supports states that expand voting by mail.
Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn said the process for absentee ballot-by-mail voting has worked well in his state, although he said expanded postal voting “is not a panacea.”
“I am sure that if there is someone who wants to vote in Texas, they can do it,” Cornyn said.
When asked if he shares Trump’s view of a “fraudulent election,” Cornyn said, “I think they know that any method known to humanity is capable of corruption.”
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia and a member of the Republican Senate leadership, said she is confident about voting by mail, which is how half of the ballots were cast in the West Virginia primary election in early this month. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, where every registered voter receives a ballot in the mail, said the process in her state “works very well.”
Speaking to CNN’s John King on Monday, Senator John Barrasso criticized Trump’s tweets on the matter, but later said voting by mail works in his state of Wyoming. Barrasso said there has been “evidence of electoral fraud in the past and we want to make sure that everything is on the rise.”
However, there is no evidence that any fraud was widespread or rampant in the US election.
It’s not just Capitol Hill Republicans. In a statement emailed to CNN, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, said that both Trump and Democrat Joe Biden “need to stop” questioning the integrity of the election.
“In Ohio we hold ourselves to the highest standards when it comes to the integrity of elections,” said LaRose. “Hundreds of local officials from both parties work every day to ensure that elections are honest and safe in all of our 88 counties.”
Pat Gannon, a spokesperson for the bipartisan electoral board in North Carolina, told CNN that there has been an increase in interest in voting by mail absentee this year and that there are safeguards to ensure fairness. The state legislature also passed tougher penalties for collecting illegal ballots. Gannon said there are still concerns about misinformation about the legitimacy of voting by mail.
“It can certainly undermine confidence in the electoral process and, in particular, absentee or mail voting. This is how many voters will vote this year,” Gannon said. “We ask voters in North Carolina to obtain voting information from reliable state and local sources.”
Trump has also openly argued that expanding the vote by mail will help Democrats defeat Republicans, an idea that animates his most recent tweets that the process amounts to manipulation of the election.
However, it is not clear that expanding mail ballots benefits one party over the other. Numerous independent studies have confirmed that neither party automatically sees a significant benefit when voting by mail is expanded. Older white voters, who were more likely to vote for Trump in 2016 and continue to favor the president in 2020, also represent a large portion of those who vote absentee.
In particular, Trump himself has voted absentee through a mail ballot in at least two elections since he became president.
A veteran Republican strategist in a decisive state, who declined to speak on the record for fear of retaliation from the state party president, said the president’s tweets do not suggest a sound political strategy.
“I think it’s just a matter of establishing a premise for complaining about a variety of things, the head of non-existent electoral fraud among them,” said the strategist. “I think it’s probably damaging overall, and it makes no strategic sense.”
Trump would continue to lose the popular vote, but would win the presidency by winning enough votes in the Electoral College, but not before many elected Republicans denounced his election characterization of the election as “manipulated.”
Almost four years later, Republican Party officials still face those kinds of questions about Trump’s rhetoric. When asked Monday if he agreed with Trump that the elections could be rigged, Senator Fischer said, “Well, you should ask the president why he said that. I’m telling you in Nebraska that it worked well and that our secretary State has said it worked well. “
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this story.