Washington – President Donald Trump considers himself an unsurpassed advocate for American troops. Now that his term is on the tightrope, he has expressed doubts about a tool for democratic participation – the postal vote – that has allowed military personnel to be part of the elections even if they have been away from home since the War of 1812.
The president has demanded on Twitter that they “stop the count” and has launched baseless accusations that “surprise loads of votes” on election night are helping his Democratic rival Joe Biden “steal” the election.
At the same time, Trump insists that mail-in ballots from army voters must be counted. He even hinted on Friday – without presenting evidence – that some of the votes the troops mailed have “disappeared”.RELATED
In his relentless attempt to question the integrity of the election, Trump has again and again attacked mail ballots. The onslaught has irritated many veterans and former military leaders who view voting by mail as a tool to fulfill their civic duty while stationed abroad.
“Officials at all levels, including in Congress, need to tell the president, ‘Sir, you need to have the same patience as the rest of the country,'” said retired Navy Admiral Steve Abbot, who served as an adviser. National Security Deputy during the George W. Bush Administration.
Abbot is a member of Count Every Hero, a coalition of senior military officers that advocates for the defense and counting of votes for members of the military. He added: “It doesn’t help this democracy that (Trump) continues to sound this alarm. It is inappropriate. “
The exact number of military mail-in votes yet to be counted in the most contested states and that will determine the next president is unknown. More than 250,000 American soldiers voted by mail in 2016 and the number was expected to increase this year.
In the 2016 presidential election, Georgia received more than 5,600 uniformed ballots; North Carolina received nearly 11,000; Pennsylvania had nearly 7,800 and Nevada about 2,700, according to the United States Election Assistance Committee.
In Georgia’s tight race, the secretary of state’s office said that some 8,900 ballots that were requested by members of the military and U.S. citizens abroad could still arrive before Friday’s deadline, in addition to the thousands that have already been received. and processed.
Trump appeared to note the number of military and foreign votes that have yet to be counted in Georgia, and on Friday he tweeted: “Where are the missing military ballots in Georgia? What happened to you?”
A total of 28 states and the District of Columbia accept and count votes from foreign soldiers that have been received after Election Day, as long as the postmark is prior to polling close.
As Biden approaches the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Trump has redoubled his efforts to challenge the processing of mail-in ballots that state authorities continue to count.
“It’s amazing how these votes by mail are for one side,” Trump said during his remarks Thursday at the White House, hours after falsely asserting in a tweet written only in capital letters that no vote received after the shift would be counted. electoral. “I know this is supposed to be an advantage of the Democrats, but in all cases, they are one-sided.”
In fact, the disparity shouldn’t be surprising. Heading into Election Day, Biden and other Democrats urged supporters to vote early and by mail due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump asked his supporters to vote in person and maintained an advantage in many states among those who voted in person on Election Day.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Thea McDonald said the president believes that “there are and should be exceptions for members of our military serving our country abroad” to ensure their votes are counted. But McDonald questioned why election officials in Pennsylvania should count mail-in votes for “Democrats in Philadelphia trying to vote after Election Day.”
Voting rights activist Kristen Clark said there is no point in the Trump campaign’s hint to stop counting legally cast votes for one group (civilians) and continue to count the ballots for another group (staff military).
“It is an indefensible position to say that state laws should apply to some voters and not to others,” said Clark, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has portrayed himself as an advocate for military families. He took every opportunity to photograph himself with relatives of soldiers who fell in conflict and claimed credit for reducing the number of troops deployed in “endless wars”, as well as devoting additional resources to the army.
But for some military families, trying to scrap post-election mail-in votes casts a bad image of the commander-in-chief, even as his team has tried to mask its large-scale attacks on mail-in ballots.
“Everybody wants the right to participate in a democracy. That is why people join the military. It’s something we strongly believe in, ”said Tori Simenec, a Navy First Lieutenant who served between 2016 and August 2020.
Mike Jason, a 47-year-old retired army colonel, recalls relying on vote by mail for nearly his entire three-decade career, during which he voted by mail in his home state of Florida from outposts in Afghanistan, Iraq. , Germany and various local assignments.
After using vote-by-mail as a way to participate in American democracy until he retired from the military last year, Jason says he finds Trump’s attacks on the integrity of the postal voting process infuriating.