Tom Ridge said voting access shouldn’t be politicized and instead be treated as a bipartisan issue.
Mail-in voting has come under the national spotlight in recent weeks following attacks by President Trump. As more and more states look to increase absentee ballot access due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the president has made unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail is “corrupt” and would lead to mass fraud, which prompted Twitter to issue its first-ever fact-check label, pointing users to links debunking his claims.
Trump’s claims have drawn criticism from Democrats and even Republicans like former Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who said he was “speechless” as to why the president targeted absentee voting, calling it both “contradictory” and “counterintuitive.”
“I’m absolutely speechless why he would not want to say to his base: If you’re nervous about going to the polls, I want to make sure you got an option,” Ridge told Wake-Up Call.
He also argued that Trump’s comments run contrary to the actions of his own party and go against “the very heart of what the Republican Party is all about,” adding that there has also been minimal evidence of meaningful fraud in mail-in voting.
“As a Republican who believes in individual accountability and individual responsibility, and I think as a Republican legislator, I ought to make doggone sure that my constituents have every option on election day to cast their ballot,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Ridge has spoken out against Trump — he was among several dozen Republicans who signed a letter in 2016 arguing that the then-candidate “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and he has since condemned some of the president’s policies, including on immigration. He has also been known to take a position on certain issues like abortion, putting him outside the mainstream of the party. But Ridge insists that speaking out isn’t personal — rather, his duty as a former elected official.
Since leaving public office, Ridge said he has made voter safety his mission. He now co-chairs VoteSafe, a cross-partisan coalition that aims to ensure that every American has secure mail-in ballots and safe, in-person voting sites. The group, also led by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, was first launched on May 21.
His comments come as mail-in voting is poised to face its biggest test yet — voters in eight states and Washington, D.C. will head to the polls for Tuesday’s primary. But Ridge remains confident the option that has been encouraged by a growing number of states will help ensure voting access, saying both parties should be concerned about maximizing voter participation.
“I applaud Republican and Democrat governors and secretaries of state for being so thoughtful about this issue now, and making preparations so that people don’t have to choose between being ultimately concerned about their health and waiting in line for voting,” he said.
As far as concerns about a potential mail ballot surge leading up to the November election, Ridge believes that states still have time to prepare and even if there is a delay in counting them out, he believes it wouldn’t be exactly a worst-case scenario.
“I’d much rather do it right than to do it quick,” he said.
This originally appeared on Medium.