Trump threatens to ‘hold up funding’ for critical state in his re-election as it moves forward with mail-in voting

President issues misleading tweet while echoing his belief that expansive mail-in voting options will serve as a nail in the coffin for the Republican Party

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 20 May 2020 19:26 BST
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Updated: President Donald Trump has threatened to “hold up funding” for Michigan — a state that's critical in his re-election campaign — as it moved forward with plans to expand mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a tweet posted early on Wednesday morning, the president slammed Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson while falsely claiming absentee ballots had already been sent to 7.7 million voters ahead of the November election.

“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” he wrote. “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!”

His comments came after the state sent applications for absentee ballots, rather than the actual ballots themselves, as the president suggested in the tweet. Mr Trump later deleted his initial post and sent out another tweet in the afternoon correcting his false comments, though he continued to claim the applications were sent "illegally".

The Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Election said it would send 6.4 million registered voters living in the state applications to vote by mail in the upcoming elections, along with the 1.3 million permanent absent voters who already had the option to apply for absentee voting.

The secretary of state announced earlier in the week that all registered Michigan voters would be receive the applications ahead of the August and November elections as part of an effort to maintain social distancing guidelines and reduce the spread of infections.

In a press release on Tuesday, Ms Benson said: “By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

She added: “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”

Michigan previously expanded vote by mail options for the state’s local elections held earlier this month, in which 140,000 voters cast ballots — more than double the turnout from May 2010. Of those, 99 percent of ballots were sent in by mail or drop box, according to the secretary of state.

“The vast majority of voters across the political spectrum want the option to vote by mail,” Ms Benson said. “Mailing applications to all registered voters is one of the ways that we are ensuring Michigan’s elections will continue to be safe, accurate and secure.”

The president has long claimed expanded voting by mail options would be a nail in the coffin for the Republican Party, saying in an interview with Fox News last month about Democratic proposals in Congress: “If you ever agree to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

He also encouraged his allies on Capitol Hill to battle back against vote by mail efforts in a tweet on 8 April, writing: “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting.”

“Democrats are clamouring for it,” he continued. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Several Republican secretaries of state have issued similar orders to Michigan for local elections and primaries nationwide. However, Mr Trump seemed intent on stopping Michigan — which he narrowly won with a margin of just .23 percent — from expanding its own vote by mail options ahead of the presidential elections.

Mr Trump voted in the Florida primaries by mail in February. He also voted absentee in New York during the 2018 midterm elections.

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