WASHINGTON – Americans’ support for mail-in voting has jumped amid concerns about the safety of polling places during the coronavirus pandemic, but a wide partisan divide suggests President Donald Trump’s public campaign against vote by mail may be resonating with his Republican backers.
A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds Democrats are now much more likely than Republicans to support their state conducting elections exclusively by mail, 47% to 29%.
In 2018, about half as many Democrats were in favor, and there was little difference in the views of Democrats and Republicans on the question.
The survey also found a partisan divide on support for no-excuse absentee voting, the system in place in most states, including almost all the top presidential battlegrounds, even as a majority of Americans say they favor that practice.
The increased partisanship in the debate over how America votes comes just as that question has been thrust into the forefront of American politics. As health officials warn about the risk of spreading the coronavirus at polling places, some in the Republican Party have tried to limit the expansion of mail voting, with Trump and others openly fretting that it may enable too many people to cast their ballots for the GOP to win in November.
All states conduct elections differently, and only five states automatically mail ballots to every voter. But in response to the virus, some states — including Ohio on Tuesday — have shifted their primaries to virtually all-mail elections. On Monday, New York Democrats canceled their presidential primary, which had already been delayed until June 23.
The Republican National Committee has been fighting some of those moves. Republicans successfully petitioned a New Mexico court to block the state from holding its June primary exclusively by mail, forcing the state to open some polling places and only send applications for absentee ballots to voters.
The Republican Attorney General in Texas argued unsuccessfully in a legal case that the coronavirus should not be an automatically accepted excuse for people seeking absentee ballots in that state.