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Trump threatens funding for Michigan, Nevada over absentee ballot program

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday incorrectly accused Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state of mailing ballots to all of the state’s registered voters, falsely claiming that it was illegal, as he escalated his assault against mail voting.

The president also threatened to withhold federal funds to Michigan and Nevada if the states proceed in expanding vote-by-mail efforts.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of primaries and the general election,” the president tweeted. “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!”

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The Twitter post was the latest in a series of broadsides the president has aimed at the vote-by-mail process that has become the primary vehicle for voting in an electoral system transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, announced Tuesday that she will send absentee ballot applications — and not actual ballots, as the president claimed — to the state’s voters, replicating an effort that elections officials across the country have made during the health crisis.

In a tweet posted Wednesday, Benson, said that the state “sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.” The president is scheduled to visit Michigan on Thursday.

Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and municipal officials in Milwaukee have also said they will send vote-by-mail applications to registered voters in hopes of easing stress on in-person voting locations.

Trump, along with many of his Republican allies, have during the coronavirus pandemic launched a series of false attacks to demonize mail voting as fraught with fraud and delivering an inherent advantage to Democratic candidates — despite there being scant evidence for either claim.

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

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Trump’s attacks on mail voting have come largely in states with little history of large numbers of people casting absentee ballots, like Wisconsin. But he has not addressed mail voting in states where it has long been popular, such as Florida and Arizona, and often used to great success by Republican campaigns. Nor has Trump denigrated mail voting in the five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — that conduct elections entirely by mail.