KEY POINTS

  • Flyers in battleground states are encouraging Republican voters to cast absentee and mail-in ballots
  • Despite Trump's attacks on mail-in voting, he has already requested his absentee ballot for Florida
  • Some Republican election officials have warned Trump his attacks on mail-in voting could prove costly in some battleground states

President Donald Trump has not hidden his opposition to mail-in voting ahead of the 2020 general election in November. As several states have chosen to expand the process amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Trump has repeatedly said this would lead to a surge in voter fraud.

“This will be the most fraudulent election in U.S. history,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday.

But now, his party’s own messaging is beginning to contradict Trump’s attacks.

In Arizona and North Carolina, two battleground states,  some state officials have expanded or sought to expand mail-in voting ahead of the 2020 general election. Republicans in the state have also been encouraging residents to vote by mail, with registered Republicans receiving flyers with Trump pushing them to do so.

“I will be an absentee voter,” an Arizona flyer acquired by NBC News said. Trump’s quote is in reference to his own voting history as he has voted by mail as an absentee voter and already requested his mail-in ballots as a resident of Palm Beach County in Florida. Several members of his family and administration have previously voted by mail and reports indicate they plan to for the upcoming election as well.

“We have a lot of absentee voters," the flyer said. "It works, so we are in favor of absentee.”

A similar flyer was sent to Republican voters in North Carolina, saying “absentee ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege.”

Indeed, studies show cases of voter fraud are extremely rare. A 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice found average voter fraud fell between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025% in the 2016 election and were typically traced to clerical errors or bad data matching practices.

Despite the mixed messaging, Republican officials in both states have argued there is a distinction between absentee voting and general mail-in voting.

“North Carolina's system is substantially different than the radical all-mail election scheme implemented at the last minute, where millions of ballots are mailed out indiscriminately based on incomplete data,” North Carolina GOP press secretary Tim Wigginton said in a press release. “We, along with President Trump, oppose these hastily enacted all-mail voting schemes that ignore common-sense safeguards.”

North Carolina has already seen a record number of absentee ballot requests before the state’s mail-in voting process begins. Election officials said 313,000 registered voters have  requested ballots, compared to around 28,000 for the 2016 general election.

“In the 2016 general [election], 4% of the population voted by mail; our election officials estimate we could have as many as 30 or 40% of the electorate voting by mail this fall,” Democracy North Carolina executive director Tomas Lopez told ABC News.

However, other Republican officials have warned Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting on Twitter and the news could still harm him come the election. GOP strategist Barrett Mason, who is currently working for GOP super PAC DefendArizona, was one of these voices and said Trump’s attacks could cost him rural voters in the state who typically vote by mail.

“President Trump continually calling into question mail-in voting won’t help our numbers in Arizona,” Mason told NBC News. “It’s of utmost importance that Republicans trust the mail-in voting system, which we’ve had for a generation, and that they use it.”

It hasn’t stopped Trump’s campaign from jumping on any chance to validate his attacks, recently targeting a city council election in Paterson, New Jersey. Four people, including a councilman and councilman-elect, were charged with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots during the June election. The Trump campaign has said it is just a taste of the widespread fraud to come, but New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy countered by pointing out it was a local election and no other issues were reported during the primaries or other local elections.