SACRAMENTO, Calif. — If reelected, former President Donald Trump promises to ban mail balloting, allow only one day for voting and finish counting on election night.
He claims mailed ballots and extended voting periods are rife with fraud. But there's no evidence anywhere of significant election cheating.
And it shows how out of touch he is with America's voting systems.
Twenty-seven states allow what's called "no-excuse" absentee voting, meaning citizens can cast a ballot by snail mail for any reason they want. Eight of these states — including California, Oregon and Washington — mail ballots to all active registered voters.
Every state permits some form of absentee voting.
Based on tabulations so far, roughly 88% of California's votes in the November election were cast using mail ballots. That percentage will probably rise when counting is complete.
California has warmly embraced mail balloting. In the gubernatorial election 20 years ago, only 27% voted by mail; 40 years ago, it was a mere 6.5%.
Even this state's Republican leaders use mail ballots.
"I have voted by mail in California for years," California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson told me in an email. "And each time, my ballot was received and counted. It's easy, it's convenient and it works for me."
But Patterson led the California GOP when it and the national party sued to block Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order to send all registered voters a mail ballot during the 2020 pandemic. The suit became moot when the Legislature replaced the order with a law. She then promoted early voting using mail ballots.
"Voting by mail is only growing in popularity across our state," Patterson emailed. "Democrats utilize this method effectively and have the results to show for it. Whether it's voting by mail, voting early in person, ballot harvesting or voting on election day, California Republicans need to embrace that there is no right way or wrong way to cast a ballot…. (We need) to make sure no votes are being left on the table."
Demagogue Trump isn't listening. Severely scaling back voting options is part of his MAGA comeback platform.
"This is just the beginning of our national greatness agenda," he proclaimed during his rambling, hour-plus candidacy announcement last month.
"To eliminate cheating," Trump vowed, "I will immediately demand voter ID, same-day voting and only paper ballots. ... So simple.
"And we want all votes counted by election night. ... They end up (counting) two weeks later, three weeks later. By that time, everyone forgot there was even an election. It's horrible. ...
"I'll get that job done. That's a very personal job for me."
Yes, he's still a denier — claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, despite no legitimate evidence to back it up. At least he claims to believe that.
Trump has been ranting about mail ballot fraud for years, even if he does vote by mail himself.
"There's a lot of dishonesty going on with mail-in voting," he charged in 2020 with zilch evidence.
Another time he tweeted: "Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Tremendous potential for voter fraud and, for whatever reason, doesn't work out well for Republicans."
So, that's the real reason why Trump opposes mail balloting. He's under the false impression it hurts Republicans.
The guy hasn't done his homework.
Republicans used to thrive on absentee balloting in California. Republican Richard Nixon narrowly carried his native state over John F. Kennedy in 1960 on the strength of absentee ballots. They also provided the tiny margin of victory for Republican gubernatorial candidate George Deukmejian over Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1982.
Ryan Ronco, longtime registrar of voters for Republican-dominated Placer County, which stretches from Sacramento's suburbs over the Sierra into Lake Tahoe, recalls when the GOP used mail ballots "a lot more than the Democratic Party as a tool to get out the vote — back in the 1990s and 2000s.
"Not until very recently when President Trump started casting aspersions on vote by mail did Republicans begin to suspect potential shenanigans."
But he says any fraud is teeny and insignificant.
Ronco, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, estimates that 95% of the Placer County votes cast during the November election were mail ballots.
So, those GOP voters obviously weren't paying attention to Trump's whining.
In Los Angeles County, roughly 80% of the votes tallied were cast by mail.
"Nothing has ever been shown to indicate any major issues of fraud," says Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan.
"It's largely pushed by Trump or people unhappy with the last election. I don't think the noise that's put out actually impacts how people vote."
There's no better evidence of that than San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican national committeewoman and co-chair of Women for Trump in 2020. She uses mail ballots.
Dhillon represented the GOP in its lawsuit against Newsom's mail ballot order. This year, she assisted losing Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who constantly charged election fraud. And she has written that "universal voting by mail poses a significant risk of … fraud, mistakes, delays and other problems."
"However, we must work with the rules that we have," she told me. "Once the ballot is sent to me, I complete it early — I like to get it out of the way — and drop it in the mail or a ballot box. And I encourage other Republicans to do that. Why not?"
No reason. It beats standing in line under an umbrella or dodging a coughing voter's flu germs.
Early voting also helps Republican candidates, Dhillon says. They can learn who has already cast ballots and "focus on a smaller universe while chasing voters."
But there'll be no early voting if Trump has his way. Many states — including red Texas and Florida — now permit it.
And vote counters won't be allowed to carefully add it all up. They'll need to rush and finish by Trump's bedtime.