Politics

Obama rips Trump administration for 'suppressing the vote' amid pandemic, urges early voting

Key Points
  • Former President Barack Obama accused President Donald Trump's administration of undermining the U.S. Postal Service and attempting to suppress votes during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • "Everyone depends on the USPS. ... They can't be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus," Obama said on Twitter.
  • Trump's Democratic predecessor urged eligible voters in states with early voting options to "do that now."
Former U.S. President Barack Obama
Alyssa Pointer | Reuters

Former President Barack Obama slammed President Donald Trump on Friday, accusing his administration of undermining the U.S. Postal Service and attempting to suppress votes during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open," Obama said on Twitter in a series of posts.

"They can't be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus."

Trump's Democratic predecessor urged eligible voters in states with early voting options to "do that now."

"The more votes in early, the less likely you're going to see a last minute crunch, both at polling places and in states where mail-in ballots are permitted. Then tell everyone you know," Obama said.

Obama Tweet 1

Obama Tweet 2/3

The tweets marked the latest broadside against the Trump administration from Obama, who in the runup to the 2020 election has grown more open in his criticism of the White House.

During his eulogy late last month at the funeral of former Rep. John Lewis, Obama had called out the efforts by "those in power" who are "doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting — by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don't get sick."

The USPS has come under intense scrutiny in recent months. Lawmakers of both parties have voiced concerns about drastic operational changes made by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Republicans and Trump-supporting committees, which have led to reports of widespread mail delays.

Democrats in particular fear that the changes could impact the 2020 presidential election between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, where more voters than ever before are expected to cast their ballots by mail.

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Trump on funding the Post Office

Trump, meanwhile, has opposed House Democrats' efforts to include billions of dollars for the financially distressed Post Office as part of any coronavirus-related relief package. He has repeatedly and aggressively claimed that widespread mail-in voting would bring catastrophic levels of election fraud — even though election experts say voter fraud is a rare occurrence.

In recent public remarks, Trump has suggested that if he refuses to approve a $25 billion infusion for the USPS, as well as $3.6 billion for election funding, that Democrats have proposed, then universal mail-in voting cannot occur.

Democrats say they are far more likely than Republicans to vote for president by mail, according to a new Change Research/CNBC poll of likely voters in battleground states.

The poll, which was conducted between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9 and surveyed 2,701 likely battleground voters, found 64% of Democrats saying they expected to vote by mail, compared with just 14% of Republican respondents and 36% of Independents. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

The Trump campaign earlier this month sued to stop Nevada from moving forward with its plan to mail out ballots directly to eligible voters. A handful of other states have already taken that step, and Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that New Jersey would also enact a "hybrid model" in the November election that includes mailing out ballots to "everybody." 

Obama's tweets Friday morning also referenced a recent podcast interview with his former campaign manager David Plouffe, in which the 44th president criticized Trump directly.

"What we've never seen before is a president say, 'I'm going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it,'" Obama said. "That's sort of unheard of, right?"