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In a recent controversy it was claimed that

“Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters,” [Trump] said. “They go and collect them, they’re fraudulent in many cases, you gotta vote … The mail ballots are corrupt in my opinion.” [...]

[Sean Eldridge, the founder of the grassroots community organisation Stand Up America] added: “Trump himself voted absentee in the last two elections. [...]

Although the emphasized claim (about Trump having voted as an "absentee", which I think means by mail) was reproduced in the Guardian, it's still attributed (to Sean Eldridge), so is it verifiable by other means?

  • 2
    Voting by absentee ballot does not necessarily mean voting by mail. The ballot may be delivered to the appropriate officials in person, by courier, or whatever, as long as it arrives in advance of election day. Or in at least some states, there is little or no distinction between "absentee" voting and early voting, with regular polling places and voting machines set up as one (popular) alternative for that. – John Bollinger Apr 10 at 11:46
  • @JohnBollinger: The claimant does appear to have claimed that Trump voted by mail in this Twitter message (2020-04-07): "Trump voted by mail in at least the last two elections.". – Nat Apr 10 at 21:10
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tl;dr This claim appears to be true, noting that the "last two elections" were the 2018 midterms and 2020 primaries, as clarified by a related Twitter message from the original claimant.


In this Twitter message, claimant Sean Eldridge clarifies that they were referring to the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 primary elections.

That same Twitter message cited these articles as support for their claim:

  1. For 2018:

    President Trump and first lady Melania Trump have cast their ballots in the 2018 midterm elections.

    A White House spokesperson said Friday that both Trumps voted by absentee ballot in New York "a few weeks ago." That means they will not have to travel to the state, where they are registered to vote, to cast a ballot in person.

    "Trump, first lady cast votes by absentee ballot for midterms", The Hill (2018-11-02)

  2. For 2020:

    As coronavirus cases started increasing and concern mounted in the days before Florida’s presidential primary, the state’s voters increasingly turned to voting by mail. President Donald Trump did the same thing, taking a moment to vote — undoubtedly for himself.

    "President Donald Trump voted for the first time in Palm Beach County (presumably for himself)", SunSentinel (2020-04-01)


Regarding the meaning of the "last two elections".

As other answers have noted, it's easy to see ambiguity in what the "last two elections" were.

So:

  1. The US holds elections on even-numbered years, e.g. 2016, 2018, and 2020.

    • Technically, the US holds elections on odd-numbered years (e.g., 2019) too, but these off-year elections are relatively minor events:

      Off-year elections during odd-numbered years rarely feature any election to a federal office, few state legislative elections, and very few gubernatorial elections. Instead, the vast majority of these elections are held at the county and municipal level.

  2. Since a US president gets 4 years in-office upon election (often 8 years, if they're re-elected while already in office), US presidential elections happen every other even-numbered year, e.g. on 2016 and 2020, but not 2018. These are presidential election years.

  3. The elections on even-numbered years between presidential-election years, e.g. 2018, are called midterm elections (because they're midway through the current term of the current president).

This claim takes place in 2020. However, since the 2020 presidential election hasn't happened yet, that's obviously not one of the "last two elections".

Before the general elections, major US political parties tend to hold primaries to select their candidates for the general election. Trump is a Republican president, so the 2020 Republican primaries are relevant to him. Apparently this is what the claimant meant by the most recent election.

Then, there were the off-year elections in 2019. However, it appears most folks understood that those probably weren't being referred to.

Then, there were the mid-term elections in 2018, which the claim referred to as the earlier of the two "last two elections".

Then, there were the off-year elections in 2017. Again, it appears that most folks understood that these weren't relevant.

Then, there were the presidential elections of 2016. @Philipp's answer shows that Trump appears to have voted in-person in 2016, which may've led to confusion about the claim as a reasonable person may've interpreted the "last two elections" as the "last two [presidential] elections", excluding both off-year and mid-term elections.

That said, the claimant was pretty clear about exactly which elections they were referring to when making this claim on Twitter, so while a reasonable person may've perceived some ambiguity in the statement as presented in media, the Twitter statement of the claim appears to be pretty clear and unambiguous.

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+1 to Philipp, but alternatively [isn't that ironic in a question about Trump?], the claim could be true if we count the 2017 NYC mayoral election:

Both Mr Trump and his wife, Melania, applied for absentee ballots to vote in the 7 November mayoral election in New York City, where they lived before moving to Washington DC. Ms Trump’s application went off without a hitch, but Mr Trump listed his birthday incorrectly – by an entire month.

Less controversially (as far inclusion in this list), in 2018:

president Donald Trump reportedly didn't vote on Tuesday. He did, however, vote in the 2018 midterm elections. Quartz reported he voted early via an absentee ballot for his home state of New York. The president voted "absentee a couple of weeks ago," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told the outlet on Tuesday.

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There are a lot of elections in the United States and the claim doesn't say which elections it refers to exactly, but the claim is wrong for the 2016 presidential election.

This video published by the New York Times shows Donald and Melania Trump casting their votes in person during the 2016 presidential election.

The Daily Mail also published an article about the event with more pictures and video footage.

This event was actually quite widely reported on by media outlets critical of Trump because it included an incident where Donald Trump allegedly attempted to break vote confidentiality by trying to take a peek at the ballot paper of his wife:

Trump voting

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    The last two elections would be 2018 (general) and 2020 (primary). Trump said he voted by mail in the Florida primary in February. – jeffronicus Apr 8 at 14:40
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    As above. Also worth pointing out that the claim didn't say anything at all about "the 2016 presidential election", so this answer adding those words in on its own, as the second half of a boldfaced phrase starting with "the claim is wrong", is very misleading. – T.E.D. Apr 8 at 21:41
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    @jeffronicus “Trump said he voted by mail in the Florida primary in February” — if you have a decent source for this, why not add it as an answer? – PLL Apr 9 at 8:47
  • "the claim doesn't say which elections it refers to exactly" – I think it is pretty clear. – Jörg W Mittag Apr 11 at 11:43

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