Mail-in ballots are prepared in April in Nebraska for the...

Mail-in ballots are prepared in April in Nebraska for the state's May 12 presidential primary. Credit: AP/Nati Harnik

President Donald Trump has done this odd little vote-fraud act before. After winning the last election, he blamed his popular-vote deficit on a claim of massive fakery that never came close to proving true, let alone lucid. Before his surprise victory, he charged that both the Republican primary and the general election were rigged against him. His attacks on the system made Trump possibly the first sore winner in the White House.

Now he has offered an evidence-free allegation that mail-in voting, growing as an adaptation to the coronavirus pandemic, somehow threatens to tilt the fall election against him. "Mail-in voting is horrible. It's corrupt," he said April 8 — weeks after his own Florida primary ballot was sent by mail. "Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans," Trump tweeted the next day.

His preemptive alibis are thus running on a faster construction schedule than his border wall.

Republican leaders in key red states are ignoring Trump's dark caveats.

On April 23, while Kentucky’s Republican secretary of state said he was considering a “significant expansion” of mail-in voting, a right-wing organization warned officials: “Putting the election in the hands of the United States Postal Service would be a catastrophe." According to the investigative website ProPublica, Kentucky nonetheless finalized a plan for the biggest increase in mail-in voting in the state’s history, and did so with bipartisan support.

GOP officials in Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and West Virginia also are expanding mail-in voting. Alabama is adding coronavirus to the reasons for which voters can request an absentee ballot.

Five states currently conduct all-mail elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, ballots are sent to all registered voters without their having to request them. In Arizona and California, voters can sign up for a permanent place on the mail-in lists. Studies so far haven't revealed a particular advantage for either major party from mail-in systems. It seems popular among older voters and appears to increase turnout where introduced.

If Trump loses the election despite his many advantages of incumbency, excuses of varying coherence will abound. Some will be repeated even if he wins, as part of his narrative about obstacles overcome. He'd probably repeat his already feeble claims that he did all anyone could do against the pandemic, but herculean efforts to restore "his" economy were sabotaged by Democrats and other enemies. He'll probably say China plotted against him because he has been so "tough." And, of course, there will be those "corrupt" ballots. If daily experience tells us anything, it is that nothing requires a factual basis for Trump to say it.