The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion A president should want all Americans to vote. Why doesn’t Trump?

A precinct deputy in St. Petersburg, Fla., wears gloves to assist voters dropping off ballots during Florida's primary election on March 17. (Zack Wittman/For The Washington Post)

PRESIDENT TRUMP utters plenty of exaggerations, half-truths and flat-out lies, but sometimes what’s most stunning is when he tells the truth. Case in point: his mind-blowing admission that he wants fewer, not more, Americans to vote. As Congress last week considered reforms to encourage voting during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Trump was opposed. He explained this week that he doesn’t want to make it easier for Americans to vote because he believes that would hurt the Republican Party.

Mr. Trump is hardly the first Republican to embrace voter suppression for political reasons, but usually they’re at least a little embarrassed to acknowledge their motivation. That’s why they make up stories about voter fraud. And, of course, Mr. Trump is not just any Republican; it’s particularly depressing that the president of the United States would give voice to views that are so patently contrary to the spirit of democracy.

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In an interview with “Fox & Friends” on Monday, Mr. Trump summarily dismissed a Democratic-led push for reforms — such as vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting — that were part of the negotiations over the recently enacted covid-19 pandemic relief package. “The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he said.

Mr. Trump didn’t elaborate on his comment, but it was clear, as The Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, that he linked high voter turnout to Republicans losing elections. In recent years, Republicans have vigorously erected barriers to voting, such as rigid voter identification and registration requirements, to discourage minorities, immigrants, young people and other groups seen as leaning Democratic from going to the polls. But seeking to take advantage of a deadly epidemic to depress turnout is a new low. It suggests that Mr. Trump thinks his best chance for a second term rests not with his handling of the pandemic crisis, but in Americans staying away from the polls because they fear for their health.

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The $400 million included by Congress in the massive relief package to help states prepare for the November elections is, according to election officials from both parties and other election experts, not nearly enough to make the changes needed to give resiliency to the election system. Indeed, even if the country were not confronted with the uncertainties and challenges of a deadly pandemic, the proposed reforms have merit that argues for their enactment. Voters in states that have implemented mail-in voting, for example, express satisfaction with the ease and convenience and their ability to make more considered choices. Officials say it has helped voter turnout without encouraging fraud or threats to security.

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There is still time before November for Congress and states to act. Mr. Trump’s embrace of voter suppression underscores the need for them to do so.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: Democrats throw down the gauntlet on vote-by-mail

Marc Elias: The virus means we’ll be voting by mail. But that won’t be easy.

Tram Nguyen: Virginia’s legislature is breaking down barriers to voting

Kareem Haggag and Devin Pope: There are stark racial disparities in voting times. Here’s how to fix them.

The Post’s View: The GOP is campaigning against voting — and it’s winning in some states

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Where do things stand? See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.

The state of public health: Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid.

Grief and the pandemic: A Washington Post reporter covered the coronavirus — and then endured the death of her mother from covid-19. She offers a window into grief and resilience.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

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