Trump steps up attacks on mail vote, making false claims about fraud

click to enlarge President Donald Trump - T.J. KIRKPATRICK/THE NEW YORK TIMES
T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times
President Donald Trump
By Reid J. Epstein, Nick Corasaniti and Annie Karni
The New York Times Company

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday escalated his assault against mail voting, falsely claiming that Michigan and Nevada were engaged in voter fraud and had acted illegally, and threatening to withhold federal funds to those states if they proceed in expanding vote-by-mail efforts.

The president inaccurately accused Michigan of sending mail ballots to its residents. In fact, the secretary of state in Michigan sent applications for mail ballots, as election officials have done in other states, including those led by Republicans. In Nevada, where the Republican secretary of state declared the primary an all mail election, ballots are being sent to voters.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” the president tweeted Wednesday morning. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

An hour later he made a similar threat against Nevada, saying the state had created “a great Voter Fraud scenario” and adding, “If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment or elaboration.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, quickly clarified Wednesday that the state is not mailing ballots to all Michigan voters. On Wednesday she began mailing ballot applications to all registered voters.

Benson said she has already spent $4.5 million to mail voters ballot applications, which are also available online, using money from the federal coronavirus relief law. She had previously sent absentee ballot applications to all voters for the state’s local elections May 5.

Michigan voters who apply for absentee ballots for the statewide primary in August for House and Senate races may also opt in to receive ballots for the November general election.

The president’s attack on Nevada is particularly confounding, given that the state’s effort to switch to a nearly-all-mail election was made by Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske, a Republican.

Cegavske’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The president himself, along with the first lady, Melania Trump, voted by mail in Florida’s presidential primary in March.