At Trump rally in Reading, Trump criticizes mail-in voting, downplays the coronavirus

Written by on November 2, 2020

At Trump rally in Reading, Trump criticizes mail-in voting, downplays the coronavirus

Pa. is recording its highest numbers of coronavirus cases, and studies show mail-in voting is not prone to fraud.

By Anthony Orozco, WITF

November 2, 2020

Please be patient: We most likely won’t know the results of the Nov. 3 election in Pa. and across the country for several days. Find out more about how WLVR News will cover election night and after.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at HoverTech International, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Allentown, Pa. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump visited Reading as part of a pre-election day blitz Saturday that focused on Pennsylvania, a swing state critical to his re-election bid. 

Listen to the story.

Trump and his supporters at the rally expressed what have become pillars in his campaign: disbelief that absentee voting will be fair, and denial that the coronavirus pandemic is as widespread as ever. 

Mark Paul Jones, of Stroudsburg, attended the rally without a mask and said he believes absentee voting invites election fraud. 

“There’s many states that say they’re not going to look at postmarks, they’re not going to look at even the signatures,” Jones said. “And that’s why people should be voting in person. And that’s why this whole thing is ripe for fraud, and there’s no question about it.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that ballots could not be thrown out due to mismatched signatures. There is no evidence that vote-by-mail is susceptible to fraud.

During the rally, Trump complained about the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a last-minute plea from Republicans to overturn a three-day extension of the mail-in ballot deadline in Pennsylvania.

Election officials across the state have urged people to remain patient as votes are counted. Election analysts have projected a possible scenario in which one candidate has more votes on election night, but the other gains more as absentee ballots are counted. 

Polls have shown that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to use mail-in ballots. 

Mark Paul Jones attended the rally dressed as a colonial Minuteman. Anthony Orozco / WITF

Jones said he is highly suspicious of the authenticity of mail-in ballots if they put challenger Joe Biden over the top in the state. He implied that newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett would act as the deciding factor in the election. 

Barrett, who was nominated by Trump, had declined to commit to recusing herself from such an election case. 

“If this thing gets that close, and then they start fiddling like that, and it gets worse and worse, I’m telling you, this is not a good situation for America,” said Jones, who was dressed as a colonial Minuteman. “Thank God we got the ninth Supreme Court Justice, because we would be in a real constitutional crisis.” 

The fear of fraud is motivating Ken Gehris, of Berks County, to not vote absentee, like he did for this year’s primary. 

“I voted that way in the spring to avoid the COVID that they were recommending we do,” said Gehris, 61, who was also not wearing a mask. “But I feel it’s important to vote in person this time.”

As Gehris’ fear of election fraud has grown, his fears of COVID-19 have lessened, though he said he knows he and the rest of the country need to take precautions.

“I think we need to be concerned and I should probably have my mask on,” Gehris said with a laugh. “I’m not near anybody right now, so I’m feeling okay.”

At the rally, Trump said the country is “rounding the turn” in the pandemic. His handling of the pandemic has been blasted by Biden and others as the disease infected more than 9 million across the nation, and his campaign messaging often focuses on his post-pandemic aspirations for the country. 

Pennsylvania has recently hit its highest daily numbers of COVID-19 cases, and 21 people are dying per day of the disease, according to state health department numbers. 

“Well, he’s done the best job he could with the information at hand, and I say we need to move forward,” Gehris said. 

Trump has also faced backlash for downplaying the severity of COVID-19 to the nation while knowing how bad the illness could be. He has also cast doubt on the effectiveness of wearing masks, which virologists have said helps limit the spread of the disease. The Trump administration also lacked a nationwide testing strategy. 

Lorraine Medoro, an administrative assistant at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said it was time for the country to move on from the new pandemic norm.

Lorraine Medoro, left, and Colleen Turrisi, right, both work in healthcare. Anthony Orozco / WITF

“We take precautions and we want everybody to take precautions, but it’s not going to dominate our lives,” said Medoro, who was not wearing a mask. “I have many people in my family that had COVID that recovered in days — really, days.”

She, like Jones, said the death rate from COVID-19 is not as bad as some may believe. 

The mortality rate for COVID-19 in the U.S. is 2.5%, and the disease has killed more than 230,000 people in the U.S.

The threat of the virus is not enough to keep Medoro from voting at the polls, which she said is the only way to have her voice heard. 

Trump trails Biden both nationally and in Pennsylvania, according to public polling. His rallies in Pennsylvania Saturday were part of urgent calls for Republicans to go to the polls on Nov. 3. 

“The big red wave is coming and I want to make sure that my ballot counts,” Medoro said.

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