President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that voters in the state of North Carolina could check their mail-in vote by going to a polling place in person to check whether it had been tabulated. His comment was characterized by several media outlets as a form of encouragement for people to vote twice.
The president was asked by WECT-TV in Wilmington, North Carolina, “Six hundred thousand people could vote by absentee in this state, are you confident in that system?”
Trump responded, “Well, they’ll go out and they’ll vote, and they’re going to have to go and check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way, because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that.”
“So, let them send it in, and let them go vote, and if their system is as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” he continued. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.
“So, that’s the way it is. But send in your ballots, send them in strong, whether it’s solicited or unsolicited, the absentees are fine—we have to work to get them, you know, it means something. And you send them in. But you go to vote—and if they haven’t counted it, you can vote. So, that’s the way I view it.”
Several media outlets interpreted the president’s comments as having seemingly encouraged voters to vote twice. The outlets pointed out that voting more than once in an election is illegal.
Trump campaign director of communications Tim Murtaugh said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times on Thursday: “President Trump has been working tirelessly to fight the radical changes to voting laws Democrats and radical left-wing judges have been forcing through mere months before an election. The President is now drawing attention to the reckless election law tampering Democrats are doing in states across the country, creating the very real opportunity for people to vote twice, as we know happened in Philadelphia.
“President Trump encourages supporters to vote absentee-by-mail early, and then show up in person at the polls or the local registrar to verify that their vote has already been counted,” Murtaugh added. “It’s amazing that the media can go from insisting that voter fraud doesn’t exist to screaming about it when President Trump points out the giant holes in the Democrats’ voting schemes.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News on Thursday, “The president is not suggesting anyone do anything unlawful. What he said very clearly there is make sure your vote is tabulated and if it is not, then vote.”
“He wants verification,” she added.
At a press briefing on Thursday afternoon, she told reporters, “The President is crystal clear here that he only—again, to read that part of his quote: ‘If your vote isn’t tabulated, then you’ll be able to vote in person.’
“This is about verifying that every vote is counted, because we know voters are disenfranchised,” she continued. “Just in the 2020 presidential primary, for instance, there were 100,000 ballots rejected in California—mail-in ballots. In New York, one in five—think about that—one in five mail-in ballots were rejected, a total of 84,000 ballots rejected in New York City alone.
“And we know the thin margins by which elections are decided, and we also know that, as research has shown, young, black, and Hispanic voters are more likely to have their mail-in ballots rejected. That’s according to a Washington Post article,” she added.
“So the President wants enfranchisement, not disenfranchisement. That’s his goal with the comments that he made yesterday.”
North Carolina allows any registered voter to request a ballot by mail. WECT-TV reported that it is “clerically impossible” for someone in North Carolina to vote twice due to a tracking mechanism that ensures that if a voter has mailed in their ballot, their vote would be recorded and they would not be allowed to cast a ballot come election day.
Barr Weighs In
Attorney General William Barr, in an interview with CNN late Wednesday, was asked to comment on Trump’s remarks.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer commented, “It sounds like he’s encouraging people to break the law and try to vote twice.”
“Well, I don’t know exactly what he was saying,” Barr responded. “But it seems to me what he’s saying is, he’s trying to make the point that the ability to monitor this system is not good and if it was so good, if you tried to vote a second time, you would be caught if you voted in person.”
“That would be illegal if they did that,” Blitzer interjected. “If somebody mailed in a ballot, and then actually showed up to vote in person, that would be illegal.”
Barr replied, “I don’t know what the law in the particular state says.”
“You can’t vote twice,” Blitzer responded.
Barr responded, “Well I don’t know the law in a particular state says, and when that vote becomes final…”
“Any state says that you can vote twice?” Blitzer asked.
“Well, there’s some—maybe you can change your vote up to a particular time, I don’t know what the law is, I’m not going to offer it,” Barr said.
The attorney general said that he believes that mail-in voting faces risks of fraud and coercion, adding, “The only time the narrative changed is after this administration came in.”
“Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion,” Barr asserted. He pointed to a recent indictment of a person in Texas with over 1,700 fraudulent ballots.
Blitzer asserted that evidence isn’t available for widespread fraud, but Barr responded by noting that this is because the United States has never attempted an election with “the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots as being proposed.”
Barr made a clear distinction between absentee voting and universal mail-in voting and said that absentee voting “is fine.”
“We haven’t had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots being proposed,” Barr told CNN. “We’ve had absentee ballots from people who request them from a specific address. Now what we’re talking about is mailing them [the ballots] to everyone on the voter list, when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.”
“People who should get them don’t get them, which is one of the major complaints in the states that have tried this in municipal elections, and people who get them are not the right people, they’re people who have replaced the previous occupant. … Sometimes multiple ballots come to the same address with several generations of occupants, do you think that’s a way to run a vote?” he added.
Barr told Blitzer that the Department of Justice is investigating voter fraud cases in multiple states.
Sarah Matthews, a White House spokeswoman, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement in late August, “All Americans deserve an election system that is fair and balanced and President Trump is highlighting that Democrats’ plan for universal mail-out voting would lead to fraud.
“Their attempts to impose a new voting system without the proper guardrails in a hurried fashion ahead of November are reckless.”
Washington State’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman told The New York Times in April that universal mail-in voting across the nation is unlikely to be workable by this November.
“You can’t just flip a switch and go from real low absentee ballots to 100 percent vote-by-mail,” she told the paper, noting that “It took 5 years to get all 39 of our counties to move to vote-by-mail.”
Trump has repeatedly expressed his concern over universal mail-in ballots, saying they could lead to a surge in fraud. He has also repeatedly made a distinction between universal mail-in voting and absentee voting.
“Absentee is great. It’s been working for a long time, like in Florida. Absentee—you request, and it comes in, and then you send it back. Absentee is great, but universal is going to be a disaster, the likes of which our country has never seen,” he said on Aug. 18. “It’ll end up being a rigged election, or they will never come out with an outcome. They’ll have to do it again. And nobody wants that, and I don’t want that.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic on Aug. 13, “If you go and wear a mask, if you observe the physical distancing and don’t have a crowded situation, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that [vote in person] … there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote in person or otherwise.”
This article has been updated to include comments from the White House Press Secretary and the Trump campaign.