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Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets moderator Laura Ingraham at a Fox News Channel town hall, Feb. 20, 2024, in Greenville, South Carolina (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Former President Donald Trump said on Fox News on Feb. 20 that voting by mail automatically leads to fraud. In 2023, however, Trump had endorsed a campaign by the Republican National Committee to  encourage members of the party to vote early and by mail.

Appearing at a televised town hall, Trump was asked by host Laura Ingraham about voter fraud. 

“If you have mail-in voting, you automatically have fraud,” Trump answered, as Ingraham attempted to interrupt and point out to him that there’s mail-in voting in Florida and he’d “won huge” there. “When you go into a voting place, like you go into one, in a properly run state, they look at you, you give voter ID, you give all sorts of identification. I mean, it would be very hard to cheat in a mass scale.”

Trump has repeatedly made false claims about election fraud and claimed without evidence that voting by mail is unsafe — though he has himself used mail-in ballots many times. Since 2016, he has baselessly claimed that the entire election system is rigged against him, and after losing to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, he sought to overturn the results based on lies that he was the real winner.

As Trump has attacked mail-in voting and discouraged his followers from participating, Democrats have used it to their advantage and amassed sizable early leads before Election Day. In a Feb. 13, 2024, special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, Democratic nominee Tom Suozzi’s early vote advantage proved especially significant when an Election Day snowstorm disrupted in-person voter turnout.

Recognizing the Democratic advantage, the Republican National Committee announced in June 2023 that it was launching a national “Bank Your Vote” initiative to get GOP voters to vote early, in person or by mail. “If we don’t vote early, we’re giving the Democrats a head start,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a video message. “But when Republicans vote early, we win.”

On a Michigan-focused webpage, the RNC tells voters, “It’s time to bank your vote,” adding: “Did you know that everyone in Michigan can request an absent voter ballot and vote safely and securely before Election Day? Voting early is the best way to ensure NOTHING gets in the way of making your voice heard. Do your part to Beat Biden and the Democrats by making your plan to vote before Election Day!”

Local Republican committees have joined in the effort. A page on the Ingram County Republican Party website, for example, encourages voters to join the RNC’s “Bank Your Vote” efforts.

“No matter which voting method (in-person, absentee ballot or early voting) you choose for the February 27, 2024 Presidential Primary. We encourage all voters to please Bank Your Vote,” it says. ”To beat Joe Biden and the Democrats in 2024, we must ensure that Republicans bank as many votes as possible before Election Day. Because of the efforts to Protect Your Vote in 2022, grassroots Republicans like you should feel comfortable Banking Your Vote in 2024.”

Trump himself recorded a video for the RNC, posted online on July 26, 2023, in support of the “Bank Your Vote” effort. “Go to BankYourVote.com to sign up and commit to voting early,” he urged. “We must defeat the far left at their own game or our country will never recover from this disastrous, crooked Biden administration.” 

Two days later, in a radio interview with right-wing host Jeff Fredericks, Trump contradicted that message. “We should have one-day voting, we should have paper ballots, and we should have voter ID, and you’d have honest elections,” he said. “When you see these votes when they take 42 days and they have ballots sitting all over the place, it’s a disgrace. We’re like a third-world country.”

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