The Slatest

Trump Is Surely Suggesting Early Voters “Change” Their Votes Because It Might Slow Down the Count

Trump looks up from the ballot booth while voting in 2016.
Sir, you can’t stay in the booth all day. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is (once again) suggesting that Americans can—and should—change their votes (to him, natch) if they have already voted early. Trump tweeted this bright idea out Tuesday morning in this classic Trump tweet one week before Election Day.

Obviously, Trump is up to something and the hamster is sprinting away on its wheel inside the president’s head. Do people change their votes? It must happen on occasion, though it seems likely, barring a true bombshell of untold proportion, that you’d just stick with your original answer. Not to mention, despite Trump’s misinformation, only a handful of states allow an early vote to be changed after it’s been submitted. Either way, it seems like a pretty small group of voters to be chasing. Like, triple-digits small. So why is Trump paying potential vote-swapping any attention at all?

Well, first, because this is Trump we’re talking about, it’s important to never forget that our president has a fetish for the erratic and the conspiratorial. But there’s another likely reason for Trump pushing voters to, at minimum, inquire about changing their early vote—to gum up the electoral works. Parsing the seven states that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports allow early vote changes—Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—you arrive at the source of Trump’s interest.

The two states that leap out here are Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both states Trump likely must win and is struggling to do so. They are also two of the places Republicans have pushed the Supreme Court to rein in extended counting deadlines that allow for alternative forms of voting during the pandemic, notably the surge in mail-in ballots. The logic is this: Democrats have generally built large pre–Election Day leads by banking early votes of all types, so Trump has generally tried to restrict the ability to accept and count those ballots. In both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Republicans have sued to invalidate any ballot postmarked by Election Day that arrives after the polls close.

If election officials in both states have a finite number of man-hours to devote during an increasingly finite amount of time to count ballots, it would seem Trump is playing the old agent of chaos card. The aim is almost certainly to cause confusion, which, if all goes to plan, creates some operational disruption of the vote count in two states that could decide the presidency.

In fact, it’s a move Trump tried in 2016—at nearly the exact same point in the race. Back then, Trump ended up eking out the election without needing the courts; this year, with the presidency and the persuasive power of the U.S. government behind him, he’s prepping for a legal battle just in case.