Seemingly motivated by worries about his political prospects heading into the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump on Wednesday intensified his attacks on mail-in ballots.
Trump, who previously said he was “allowed to” vote by mail in Florida’s March 17 primary, has railed against Democratic-led states offering that same opportunity to their voters. Despite the risk of casting in-person ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has encouraged Republicans to fight against mail-in voting, claiming it “doesn’t work out well” for their party politically. Lately, the president and his allies have amplified the conspiracy theory that voting by mail encourages voter fraud.
On Wednesday, Trump posted a tweet threatening to “hold up funding” to the state of Michigan after it sent applications for voting by mail to registered voters. Trump’s tweet falsely claimed both that Michigan sent voters the actual ballots needed to vote and that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson “illegally” permitted them to be sent.
“I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” he said.
“It’s outrageous,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) told HuffPost when asked about Trump’s tweet. “It’s particularly remarkable given the fact that the president has voted by mail. ... So it’s OK for him, apparently. It’s just not OK for everyday Americans.”
During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Kaleigh McEnany would not clarify what “funding” Trump was threatening to withhold.
When asked why it was okay for the Trump to mail his ballot but not okay for other Americans, McEnany claimed Trump “had to” because he was unable to cast his ballot in Florida, where he lives and frequently visits.
In a later tweet on Wednesday, Trump issued a similar threat to the state of Nevada, which recently sent voters ballots ahead of the state’s June 9 primary, due to concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus. A number of states, including Nevada, already allow absentee voting and voting rights advocates in several others are pushing to ensure that people can vote safely from their homes in upcoming elections.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told HuffPost he expects “90%” of Utahns to submit mail-in ballots, rebutting Trump’s claim that voting by mail hurts Republicans.
“It works very, very well. And it’s a very Republican state,” Romney added.
Trump’s obvious and persistent desire to curb legal voting illustrates the extent to which he and his allies see voter suppression as key to their political fortunes. Because Trump uses Twitter both for expressing his fury and also for pseudo-governance ― like announcing cabinet firings and air strikes, and encouraging investigations into his opponents — it is unclear what lengths the president will actually go to in order to restrict voter access.
In his tweets threatening Michigan and Nevada, Trump tagged the U.S. Treasury and Russ Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Trump was impeached in December after investigators found he misused the Office of Management and Budget to force Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Igor Bobic contributed to this report.