More Vote for Mail for Me, but not for Thee

This time, the Pences

Despite ongoing rhetoric in opposition to voting by mail, there are a number of administration officials who are more than happy to avail themselves of the option. As I noted last month, Trump has voted by mail, as has press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

And now, add two more to the list. Via Business Insider noted Mike Pence and his wife Karen voted by mail in April from a mansion they haven’t lived in for four years.

The Pences cast their mail-in ballot on April 13, listing the Indiana governor’s mansion as their residence, according to a copy of the state’s voter files.

The second couple moved out of their taxpayer-funded house in Indianapolis at the end of 2016 as they prepared to move to Washington, DC, but they remain registered to vote at their most recent address, along with the state’s current Republican governor, Eric Holcomb.

For something that the administration finds so corrupt, they have no trouble using the mechanism themselves. Indeed, if Trump and Pence thought in-person voting was so important, they could always go home to do so. Just end their campaigns in their home states. (Indeed, as noted in my post linked above, Trump was in Florida at a time that would have allowed him to vote in person, but he declined to do so).

And, of course, it would be nice if the Pences used an actual personal address, rather than the governor’s mansion.

The notion that absentee voting is different that vote-by-mail is, of course, absurd. The difference is only one of scale. The fact that several states have used vote-by-mail exclusively without any evidence of fraud undercuts the claims that the process leads to fraudulent outcomes.

I will note the scale issue matters in the sense that shifting to full vote by mail is impossible in many states at this point, and that’s a fair thing to note. But even that does not justify the unwillingness of some states (such as Texas and Alabama) from loosening restrictions on who can vote in this fashion given the pandemic.

Regardless of all that, this is just another example of the brazen hypocrisy of this administration.

FILED UNDER: Mike Pence, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    I didn’t know that I was a rampant criminal and fraudulous voter for the twenty years I voted by mail while in the Air Force.

    Now that I’m a senior citizen, I am looking forward to committing even more crime.

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  2. drj says:

    @Scott:

    I voted by mail while in the Air Force.

    Almost certainly not a criminal then! (We’d still have to check melanin levels to be sure, though.)

    Like with so many other things, it’s not about what is being done, but about who is doing it.

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  3. CSK says:

    When someone asked Trump why he voted by mail, didn’t he reply “Because I could.”
    Apparently Cult45 is oblivious to this blatant hypocrisy.

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  4. Michael Cain says:

    Serious question… Since absentee ballots became common, how many Presidents and Vice Presidents have registered to vote in the District? How many have voted absentee in their home state? I know that Reagan on more than one occasion told reporters that he and Nancy had voted by California absentee ballot. In 2012, President Obama made a campaign “stop” to vote early in Illinois; the First Lady voted by Illinois absentee ballot. I suspect that few if any Presidents in my lifetime have registered in the District.

    I live in a vote-by-mail state and am an advocate for mailing a ballot to every registered voter. That said, I am also aware of some of the logistics of handling the nearly 400,000 registered voters in my county. A state that hasn’t made much use of mail ballots (eg, Kentucky at 2% in 2018), and particularly if they have complicated elections (eg, Kentucky reportedly has 2,200 different ballots for a primary election), is probably too late now: if they try 100% vote by mail this November it’s going to be ugly. Not ugly because of fraud, ugly because the logistics are going to screw them up. We already know that some KY voters have received the wrong ballot, or not received a requested ballot, or will receive their ballot tomorrow. Not because the officials aren’t trying, but because they’re overwhelmed.

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  5. @Michael Cain: Since the constitution requires the president and vice president to be from different states it would preclude registration in DC, I would think. It also seems that memory suggests that presidents often end their campaign trails in their hometowns, and typically vote for president, at least, at home (and likely absentee otherwise).

    And yes: I am a proponent of vote-by-mail but recognize the huge logistical problems at hand. Maybe if we had not had obstructionists in Congress legislation and money to help back in March or April could have helped, but alas.

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  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Now that we are hopefully in the final months of the Trump nightmare, we should step back and remind ourselves that what Trump and Pence did is not specific to them but is the kind of two-faced hypocrisy we’ve had from Republicans for decades now. I can see that after election night, Republicans and their sympathizers loading up all their sins on Trump and claiming to be above it all.

    But remember: it wasn’t Trump who organized or even ordered state GOP to screw around with voting efforts. The Georgia GOP and other state GOP governments have been doing that for years.

    Keep our eyes on the ball, people. Make sure Republicans finally pay for this border-line treason in the future.

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And, of course, it would be nice if the Pences used an actual personal address, rather than the governor’s mansion.

    Seeing as he is no longer a resident at said mansion and does not own it, this IS voter fraud, or at least it is here in Misery.

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Exactly. He can hardly claim the governor’s mansion as a primary residence. I do hope the Indiana election officials are all over this obvious case of vote fraud.

    I don’t know if it was triggered by the house sale or by registering in FL, but several months after we left OH we got a letter saying we’d be struck from the rolls unless we offered a claim of continued residence in OH. I wonder if Pence got such a letter. Of course he didn’t sell the mansion and he likely didn’t register in DC.

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  9. Michael Cain says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I was wondering about how the “different states” requirement would play out. Presumably anyone who claims District residency is not eligible to run for President. Another argument for greatly limiting the scope of the actual federal district and doing something else with the rest of the city. (For the record, I oppose statehood; we need fewer statelets, not more.)

    Yes, a decision by Congress and the President providing money in March would have gone a long way towards solving the November problem (less so for the primaries). Given that on Jan 24 Dr. Fauci said publicly, “We don’t want the American public to be worried about this because their risk is low,” it’s unsurprising that Congress didn’t act. A good piece on many of the problems here.

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  10. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Seeing as he is no longer a resident at said mansion and does not own it, this IS voter fraud, or at least it is here in Misery.

    Lock him up! Lock him up!

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  11. Michael Cain says:

    He can hardly claim the governor’s mansion as a primary residence. I do hope the Indiana election officials are all over this obvious case of vote fraud.

    There are lots of “corner cases” where someone is a resident for voting purposes but lacks a primary residence. Homeless people. Ex-pats working for an extended period overseas. Military people stationed outside the country. Assuming the Constitution is not self-contradictory, a President or Vice President running for reelection must be a resident of some state in order to apply the test that they’re not from the same state.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Just in passing, I will note that I don’t see how the fact of the President and Vice President residing in DC creates a “can’t come from the same state” problem given that DC is not a state. Of course, people looking for a casus belli will find and use whatever they can make believable–hence mail-in ballot fraud.

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  13. @Just nutha ignint cracker: I am operating from the untested assumption that they both couldn’t be DC residents, but one could.

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  14. Scott F. says:

    Well, the point of opposing mail-in voting isn’t principled consistency, but rather table setting for claims that the election is rigged later.

    So, the brazen hypocrisy doesn’t hurt the message. Good decent people doing something doesn’t preclude bad corrupt people doing the same thing for nefarious ends. (See “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.” or “Driving while Black.”)

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: W and Cheney were both citizens of Texas. A problem resolved by Cheney changing his residency to Wyoming. A fudge facilitated by actually owning a residence in Wyoming. Does Pence actually own a home anywhere or is he still operating on the assumption God will move him from the Naval Observatory to Pennsylvania Ave.?

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  16. @gVOR08: The residency thing doesn’t cause me a ton of heartburn, even though claiming the governor’s mansion seems more than bogus (I am not sure it is hugely different than HW Bush using a hotel address in Houston to maintain Texas residency).

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  17. Michael Cain says:

    @Scott F.:

    Well, the point of opposing mail-in voting isn’t principled consistency, but rather table setting for claims that the election is rigged later.

    My working assumption is that a Supreme Court challenge to delivering ballots by mail will have to come with substantial evidence of actual fraud to be successful. I think Gorsuch will side with the four liberals. Vote-by-mail is immensely popular in Colorado and across the West. Gorsuch has family here and will want to be able to visit without people spitting at him.

    The case to compare this to is Arizona v. Arizona (independent redistricting commission created by ballot initiative). The conventional wisdom on the East Coast was “The Commission will lose because Kennedy is a conservative.” I said at the time the Commission will stand because Kennedy is a California boy, and is the only justice with reasonable first-hand knowledge of how screwed the western states will be if the Court puts otherwise-valid state election laws off limits because they were done by initiative.

    Perhaps the only thing in the universe that Justice Thomas and I agree on is the dangers of a Supreme Court where all the members’ entire adult life experience is in the NE urban corridor from Boston to DC.

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  18. Jen says:

    The residency thing doesn’t cause me a ton of heartburn,

    As a concrete, practical matter, no.

    But this has been one of the Republican talking points from the “Bleating on and on about voter fraud” playbook.

    Here in NH, they hit that point hard and often. So yeah, we’re back to Hypocrisy 101, IOKIYAR.

    Pence really needs to be forced to answer the question about where his residence is, IMHO.

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  19. @Jen: This is fair.

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  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Personally, I would like the incoming Biden Administration (fingers crossed) to make a new voting rights act a priority. Said act would insure that, in all federal elections, those who request a mail-in ballot get one. It would probably still be necessary to leave administration of state elections with the states, but I know of no constitutional basis not to establish a standard voting protocol for Federal elections.

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  21. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Cain:
    This assumes that challenges to the 2020 election outcome play out in the courts versus the court of public opinion. We are dealing with a President and an Attorney General who have consistently disregarded congressional oversight, including subpoenas, plus an armed following who see Trump as the Second Coming.

    For the first time in my life, the US’s peaceful transition of power seems at risk. Any issue that provides more traditional Republicans cover to join the Trumpaloons (who’ll believe whatever Dear Leader tells them) just adds risk.

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  22. Roger says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Seeing as he is no longer a resident at said mansion and does not own it, this IS voter fraud, or at least it is here in Misery.

    I’m not sure you’re right about that. If you remember, when Kit Bond was elected governor the Missouri Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, held that he met the requirement that a candidate for governor had to have been a resident of Missouri for the ten years preceding the election despite the fact that Kit had lived out of state for almost all of the preceding decade, and during that time had filed an application to take the Georgia bar in which he certified that he was a citizen and resident of Georgia. Kit always planned to come back to Missouri, and the court decided that was enough for him to remain a resident of the state, no matter what he told the folks where he actually lived.

    I suspect that a Missouri court would still be okay with a politician who listed his last residential address in the state as his voter registration address, even though he didn’t own it and didn’t live there. The fact that it’s the governor’s mansion makes it funny, but probably doesn’t change the analysis. It’s nothing like some unemployed single mom who tries to use the address of the apartment she was evicted from to vote. That would be voter fraud.

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  23. JohnMcC says:

    @Scott F.: Just for the hell of it, I’ll remind the meeting that in July of ’19, AG Barr sure seemed to indicate that the President has the authority to ignore a Supreme Court order. In that case it was concerning the citizenship question on the census. Next one could be to vacate the WH, you reckon?

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  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’ve always thought of it as overblown too. When Hawley won the election for MO Attorney General he continued to live in his current residence one county over. Turns out there is a clause in the state constitution that the AG MUST reside in Jefferson City. And state DEMs were riding him hard on it. I thought it was a bunch of 19th century nonsense but hey, it was Hawley and if ever a religious bigot deserved getting held to the letter of the constitution it’s that grasping SOB.

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  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Roger: I have read a number of stories of MO citizens being prosecuted for voting in precincts they no longer lived in, to the point where I have always made damn sure that when I moved I changed my registration post haste. Kit Bond probably was the recipient of the same largesse always given to those not of the lower castes.

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  26. DrDaveT says:

    For something that the administration finds so corrupt, they have no trouble using the mechanism themselves.

    That’s how they know it’s corrupt!

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.:

    Well, the point of opposing mail-in voting isn’t principled consistency, but rather table setting for claims that the election is rigged later.

    I expect you’re right that it’s prep for screaming and hollering, legally as well as rhetorically, about the results. But I also think they’re really trying to limit mail in voting as much as possible. They’ve spent years perfecting in person ID requirements and limiting polling places and machines in D precincts. And, IIRC, the court ordered pause on using volunteer poll “watchers” to intimidate voters has expired. Not to mention the occasional attempts to tell people the wrong date. Now just because of some silly excuse like a deadly epidemic, everybody wants to vote by mail and skirt all their efforts at suppressing in-person voting by the wrong people. Just by reflex they’re gonna fight it.

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