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- 45th President of the United States
- 46th and current president of the United States
Joe Biden: “In the 2020 election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House in Florida.”
PolitiFact's ruling: Half True
Here's why: While Republican state lawmakers have passed and proposed numerous restrictions on voting by mail since the 2020 election, there exists a curious fact: The leader of their party, former President Donald Trump, chose to vote by mail multiple times in recent years.
President Joe Biden noted that do-what-I say-not-what-I-do philosophy during a speech in Georgia calling on Congress to pass voting rights legislation.
Biden said that Georgia Republicans have put up obstacles such as "making it harder for you to vote by mail," a reference to the state law passed in 2021 that adds some restrictions to voting by mail, including availability of drop boxes. But in the presidential election, Trump himself cast a mail ballot, Biden said.
"The same way, I might add, in the 2020 election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House in Florida," Biden said.
Biden is partially correct about Trump’s 2020 voting habits: Trump cast a mail ballot twice in 2020 primary elections. (We don’t know where Trump physically sat to fill out his mail ballot.) But in October 2020, after he was repeatedly challenged about why he criticized voting by mail while using it himself, Trump voted early in person for the general election.
Before and after the 2020 general election, Trump spread many falsehoods about voting by mail. These falsehoods have helped fuel the push by many state GOP lawmakers to craft bills that add restrictions to voting by mail in several states, including Georgia and Florida. Biden has called on Congress to pass two key pieces of voting rights legislation: the Freedom to Vote Act, which would create uniform standards for voting including casting mail ballots, and a bill named after U.S. Rep. John Lewis that aims to block discriminatory voting laws.
How Trump voted in 2020 in Florida
Trump became a Florida registered voter in 2019 using his Mar-a-Lago address. In 2020, we interviewed Wendy Sartory Link, the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, about Trump’s voting record.
A representative picked up ballots for Trump from the elections office, which is allowed under Florida law. Link confirmed that Trump voted using that method for the presidential preference primary in March and the state primary in August. The elections office doesn’t record for each individual whether their ballot is physically dropped off, mailed in or put in a drop box.
Trump chose to vote by mail rather than in person even though his motorcade repeatedly drove right by an early voting site at a Palm Beach County library around the date of the March 2020 election, CNN reported.
For the general presidential election, Trump voted early in person at the Palm Beach County Main Library, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Florida.
"I voted for a guy named Trump," the president said, according to a pool report, the New York Times wrote. Trump said that his experience had been "perfect" and that "it was a very secure vote."
In the summer of 2020, Trump defended his record of voting by mail.
"I’m an absentee voter because I can’t be in Florida, because I’m in Washington," Trump said in July 2020 before repeating unsubstantiated claims of fraud. "I’m at the White House, so I’ll be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters, and it works. We’re in favor of absentee, but it’s much different than millions of people in California. They’re going to send out tens of millions of voting forms. Well, where are they going to go? You read where postmen are in big trouble now. You read where city councils are in big trouble now. Voter fraud all over the ballot."
The Florida Legislature unanimously voted in 2016 to change the phrase "absentee" to "vote-by-mail," in order to ease confusion among voters who mistakenly believed that they had to be away from home to request a ballot by mail. That meant that under Florida law it didn’t matter whether Trump was at the White House, Florida or anywhere else in the world when it was voting season — he had a legal right to a mail ballot.
How Trump voted 2016-18 as a New Yorker
Biden singled out Trump’s voting history in 2020, but we decided to look back at his voting habits back to the 2016 general election. We contacted a spokesperson for the New York City Board of Elections to ask questions about Trump’s voting history, but did not hear back by deadline. However, we found news reports showing that sometimes as a New York voter, Trump cast an absentee ballot.
Many high-ranking officials in the Trump administration or the campaign voted by mail in 2018 or in recent years prior, including Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Bill Barr, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and campaign manager Brad Parscale, according to The Washington Post.
2017: The New York Daily News reported that Trump filled out an absentee ballot for the mayoral election and checked a box on an application stating he would be absent from the city on Election Day. The newspaper found that Trump’s ballot application listed his birthday as July but it is actually June 14, 1946. NY1 reported that Trump and his wife Melania authorized a campaign staffer to pick up the ballots for them.
2016: Trump voted in person in the November election at Manhattan’s Public School 59, blocks from Trump Tower, where he lived.
We didn’t look further back for news reports about whether Trump voted absentee or in person prior to November 2016. However, his efforts to cast a ballot in 2004 drew attention in 2020 when a 2004 "Access Hollywood" video resurfaced. "Access Hollywood" filmed Trump as he attempted to vote in person in New York City, where he was turned away from various sites because poll workers said he wasn’t registered to vote at those locations. In the video, Trump grew frustrated and said, "I'm going to fill out the absentee ballot." Ultimately, Trump was seen filling out a ballot in the backseat of a car.
"At least you can say the Trumpster doesn’t give up," Trump says. "You’ve gotta vote." "Access Hollywood" reported that Trump cast a provisional ballot.
Biden said, "In the 2020 election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House in Florida."
We don’t know where Trump sat when he voted in 2020, but we do know from Palm Beach County election officials that he voted via a mail ballot in the presidential preference primary in March and the August primary. A representative picked up the ballot for him, which is uncommon but allowed. That said, when people hear "the 2020 election" they generally think of the general election. And for that, Trump cast his ballot in person at an early voting site at a library.
We rate this statement Half True.
White House Briefing, Remarks by President Biden on Protecting the Right to Vote, Jan. 11, 2022
Washington Post, 16 Trump officials who have voted by mail recently, despite Trump’s warnings about it, June 23, 2020
Access Hollywood, Access Classic: Donald Trump's Election Day Disaster – A Look Back (2004)
AP, Trump casts doubt on mail voting. His campaign promotes it. May 12, 2020
CNN, Trump could have voted in person in Florida this year but chose not to, May 27, 2020
WRAL, GOP mailer pitches voting by mail despite president's 'Rigged Election!!!' rhetoric, July 24, 2020
Palm Beach Post, Photos: Trump votes in West Palm Beach, Oct. 24, 2020
NY1, Is Trump casting a ballot for election day in NYC? 2017
New York Daily News, Why Melania, Ivanka and Jared's mayoral election votes didn't count, Dec. 11, 2017
Washington Post, VIDEO: Donald Trump, Billy Bush and their ‘Election Day Disaster’Nov. 8, 2016
New York Times, Donald Trump, Amid Cheers and Jeers, Casts His Vote, Nov. 9, 2016
The Hill, Trump, first lady cast votes by absentee ballot for midterms, Nov. 2, 2018
Quartz, Donald Trump was one of 40 million early voters in the US midterms, Nov. 6, 2018
PolitiFact, Donald Trump’s dubious claim that 'thousands' are conspiring on mail-ballot fraud, April 9, 2020
PolitiFact, No, California Is Not Sending Mail-In Ballots "To Anyone In The State," As Trump Falsely Claimed, May 26, 2020
PolitiFact, Trump’s misleading claim about 'unsolicited' mail ballots, Sept. 10, 2020
PolitiFact, Trump exaggerates North Carolina ballot mishap, Sept. 22, 2020
PolitiFact, No, Trump did not vote twice in Nov. 3 election, Oct. 25, 2020
PolitiFact, Trump’s cascade of falsehoods about voting by mail, Nov. 1, 2020
PolitiFact, President Trump Shares Misleading Video, Falsely Calls Into Question Ballot Collection In California, Nov. 11, 2020
PolitiFact, Donald Trump’s jab at Georgia recount ignores key voting principles, Nov. 18, 2020
PolitiFact, What’s in Georgia’s new voting law that lost it the All-Star Game, April 7, 2021
PolitiFact, Are there 28 new, restrictive voting laws? Not exactly, July 21, 2021
Telephone interview, Wendy Sartory Link, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Jan. 12, 2022
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Fact-check: Did Trump vote by mail for the 2020 election?