WASHINGTON – Even as they both attack the idea of voting by mail, President Donald Trump and his new press secretary may have voted by mail illegally, using residential addresses on their registrations that were not their residences.
Kayleigh McEnany cast Florida ballots in 2018 using her parents’ address in Tampa, even though she lived in Washington, D.C., and held a New Jersey driver’s license. Trump cast a Florida ballot this year using a business address in Palm Beach, where he had promised the town government he would not live.
“If Florida is not really your primary residence, than it’s inappropriate for you to be registered as a voter in Florida,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a fellow at the Brennan Center and a professor at Stetson University in Florida.
McEnany did not respond to HuffPost queries about either her or her boss’s voter registration discrepancies. Providing false information on a registration in Florida is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison.
Trump made a show of moving to Florida last year and used the state’s vote-by-mail option to cast his ballot in the March presidential primary. He registered to vote using his Mar-a-Lago resort as the “address where you live” – even though he signed an agreement with the town of Palm Beach nearly three decades ago promising that it would not be used as a private residence.
“It’s illegal,” Reginald Stambaugh, a Palm Beach County lawyer involved in a dispute over a dock Trump recently tried to build at Mar-a-Lago, said of Trump’s voter registration.
Trump tried to claim 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the location of the White House in Washington, as his legal residence on Sept. 27, 2019, but that registration was rejected by Palm Beach County elections officials. His revised form filed a month later gives the Mar-a-Lago address. Both require a signature affirming that the information provided is true. (Trump confused matters further this week when he declared on a conference call with governors: “I live in Manhattan.”)
A 1993 agreement between Trump and the Town of Palm Beach states that Trump may not use his Mar-a-Lago resort as a residence. Trump voted in the March 2020 presidential primary using Mar-a-Lago as his legal residence.
(Town of Palm Beach, Florida)
Under the Aug. 10, 1993, agreement with Palm Beach, first reported by The Washington Post, Trump received permission to turn the estate he had bought in 1985 into a social club, but only after promising it would not be used as a residence. The agreement specified that the club could not have any more than 10 guest suites, that they could not be advertised or available to the public, and could not permit its members to use them more than 21 days in a given year.
“The use of guest suites shall be limited to a maximum of three (3) non-consecutive seven (7) day periods by any one member during the year,” the agreement states.
Florida law does not allow a place of business, including a social club, to be used as a residence for the purpose of registering to vote.
“I think he just forgot what he promised,” image Stambaugh said. “Now it’s incumbent on the town of Palm Beach and the people of the state of Florida to remind him that Mar-a-Lago is not the appropriate residence for him to vote.”
Palm Beach Town Manager Kirk Blouin said he was not familiar with the agreement and referred questions to the town attorney, who did not respond to HuffPost queries.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link also did not respond to queries about Trump’s voter registration and the ballot he cast in the March presidential primary.
Typically, Florida elections officials reject registrations that use addresses in areas that are zoned for commercial establishments. Mar-a-Lago’s zoning, however, is “large estate residential.” It was given a “special exception use” in 1993 that turned it into a commercial enterprise ― a designation not visible on zoning maps.
McEnany voted in both the 2018 primary and general elections in Florida using her parents’ waterfront address in Tampa as her legal residence rather than the house she and her husband bought in 2017, located a mile and half away ― all while living and working in Washington as a full-time employee of the Republican National Committee.
At the time, McEnany’s driver’s license and car registration showed an address in Edgewater, New Jersey. Those documents can only be obtained by proving residency in that state, according to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission website.
Florida law states that registered voters must be “Florida residents,” and one of the documents that can be provided as proof is a Florida driver’s license.
In August 2019, McEnany gave an interview to a Tampa radio station stating that she worked in Washington, but traveled to Tampa “pretty much every weekend.”
In November 2019, according to Hillsborough County records, she changed her legal residence from her parents’ address to that of her own house. It’s unclear how much time she has spent there since.
In February 2019, McEnany left the RNC to join the Trump campaign, headquartered across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and was working there in March when she voted by mail in Florida’s presidential primary. She joined the White House in April as Trump’s fourth press secretary in as many years.
Through all those years, McEnany has repeated Trump’s false claims of rampant voter fraud and accusations that Democrats want undocumented immigrants to vote, and, most recently, that mail ballots increase fraud.
“They are subject to fraud, and that is extremely troubling,” she said last week from the White House briefing room.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany frequently repeats Trump's false claims that mail-in ballots increase fraud, but she voted by mail in Florida last year using her parents' Tampa address.
McEnany defended her own choice to vote using mail ballots because she was not in Florida at the time, but did not address why she did not vote in places where she happened to be living.
“Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason. It means you’re absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person,” McEnany last month told the Tampa Bay Times, which first reported her extensive use of mail ballots through the years.
“President Trump is against the Democrat plan to politicize the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud. This is a simple distinction that the media fails to grasp.”
Daniel Smith, a voting rights expert at the University of Florida, said McEnany’s statements about voting are filled with hypocrisy.
“Florida doesn’t have absentee voting, we have vote by mail,” Smith said. “We don’t use the term absentee. One does not need to have an excuse or be absent to vote by mail. So it’s not just for people like her who may be temporarily out of Florida.”
Trump and McEnany are not the only White House officials attacking mail voting while using it themselves. Top aide Kellyanne Conway ― who last month said that if people could wait in line an hour to buy designer cupcakes, they should also be able to wait in line to vote ― nevertheless cast her own New Jersey ballot in the 2018 midterm by mail.
By S.V. Date and Ryan J. Reilly