President Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that Michigan's no-excuse absentee voting will produce "tremendous fraud" and said he's still considering withholding federal money from Michigan because the state is mailing every resident an application to vote by mail.
"Obviously there is going to be fraud. We're not babies," Trump said at a news conference at an Ypsilanti Township
Ford Motor Company plant that is producing ventilators. "There's tremendous fraud."
Two-thirds of Michigan voters approved a 2018 constitutional amendment that permits no-excuse absentee voting, which means voters don't need a reason to cast an absentee ballot.
Despite no evidence of widespread voting fraud from no-excuse absentee voting, Trump insisted "voting by mail is fraught with fraud and abuse," a claim that many of his supporters are parroting.
"They pirate these applications," Trump said. "They print new voting forms, and they send them around. People sign them. People sign them, or one person signs them with different pens and a different signature each time."
Trump said voters need a legitimate excuse to vote by mail. For example, Trump voted by mail, because he's registered to vote in Florida.
"If you’re president of the United States and you vote in Florida, and you can’t be there, you should be able to send in a ballot," Trump said. "If you’re not well, feeling sick, and you have a reasonable excuse, you should be able to vote by mail-in."
On Wednesday morning, Trump falsely claimed
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is mailing absentee ballots to all 7.7 million active voters in the state. Benson, a Democrat, is sending out applications
for absentee voting, not the ballots themselves.
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump corrected himself about the applications, but continued to falsely insist the mailing "was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State."
Benson responded on Twitter, saying Trump was "still wrong."
"Every Michigan registered voter has a right to vote by mail," Benson tweeted. "I have the authority & responsibility to make sure that they know how to exercise this right - just like my GOP colleagues are doing in GA, IA, NE and WV."
The idea behind the mass mailings is to make it easier for residents to vote without subjecting themselves to a possible COVID-19 infection during the August and November elections. Public health experts believe one of the reasons Michigan was hit so hard by the coronavirus was because the state held a presidential primary election in early March as COVID-19 was quietly spreading
across southeast Michigan.
Benson made the rounds on national TV news programs to explain that she was doing nothing illegal.
“I’m dumbfounded that this is controversial, especially because there are Democratic and Republican secretaries of state doing just what we’re doing here in Michigan,” Benson said on MSNBC's All in with Chris Hayes
on Wednesday night.
She added, "Every Michigan citizen has a right to vote by mail."
Trump is trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in Michigan's presidential election in November, according to recent polls
During his tour of Ford's Rawsonville plant, Trump was observed not wearing a mask, despite Attorney General Dana Nessel warning him that he had a "legal responsibility"
to wear one. Asked about the lack of a face covering, Trump insisted he was wearing one earlier.
“I had one on before,” Trump said, standing next to a masked Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. “I wore one in this back area, but I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it. I had it in the back area. I had goggles and a mask."
When asked whether Trump was told he didn't need to wear a mask on his tour, Ford responded, “It’s up to him.”
Trump also took the opportunity to take a jab at Biden.
“I don’t know how the hell these unions aren’t endorsing Trump instead of endorsing the standard Democrat — a Democrat who doesn’t know where he is,” Trump said.
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