There have been a lot of stories about how Trump is screwing around with the ballots, especially in Pennsylvania, where he and the GOP-controlled legislature have, with some help from the Supreme Court, set up the following catch-22:

  1. Reject any ballot that arrives after election day even though it was postmarked prior to election day (SCOTUS has punted on this for the moment).
  2. Slow down mail delivery in Pennsylvania so that many ballots won’t arrive in time.

    All so that he can

  3. Declare that whoever is ahead on election day is the winner (Trump is clearly counting on more Republicans turning out to vote in person on election day).

Leave aside for now the total illegality of that last point — Trump is trying to create a momentum similar to that of Florida in 2000. Here’s the thing about points 1 and 2: Trump may be hoisting himself on his own petard.

Potentially thousands of requested mail ballots lost in Butler County, official says

HARRISBURG — Potentially thousands of mail ballots requested by Butler County voters appear to be lost, a county official said Wednesday, and the U.S. Postal Service has been asked to immediately investigate what happened to them.

A USPS spokesperson, meanwhile, said the agency is “unaware of any significant delays or issues and is in regular contact with the Board of Election as we work to locate and deliver ballots as they are presented to us.”

As of Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters are no longer able to apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot.

Nearly 40,000 registered voters in the county requested mail ballots. So far, only 24% of them have been returned to the county, by far the lowest rate among the state’s 67 counties. The county with the next-lowest return rate, Fayette, has received 50% of requested ballots.

Why is this significant? Because in 2016, Trump won Butler county 67% to 29%, or by 34,554 votes. He won Fayette county 64-33, or around 16,500 votes. Trump is planning to hold a rally in Butler county on Saturday. As of 3 days ago, Butler county is still at “moderate risk,” but it is just north of Allegheny county, which includes Pittsburgh.

We can’t know, of course, how many of those missing ballots would have gone to Democrats, but given the 2016 votes, there is a very good chance at least half were going to Republicans (who should be starting to get as nervous as Democrats at voting in person on election day). The other side of the coin is the possibility that many of those who ballots never arrived will now decide to vote in person, which also screws up Trump’s plan.

There’s an element of speculation in all this, of course. But it is a classic Trump maneuver: shoot yourself in the foot while it’s still in your mouth.

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