White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said President Trump was not encouraging anyone to “do anything unlawful” when he suggested on Wednesday that voters should test election security by voting once by mail and again in person.
“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,” McEnany said in an interview on Fox News.
“Basically, when you get an absentee ballot and you send it in, there are poll books and it is recorded that you have in fact voted. And if you show up at a polling site, they look at the poll book and say your vote has been counted. He wants verification,” McEnany added.
During a local TV interview in Wilmington, N.C. on Wednesday, the president had suggested that people should vote twice to test the security of the voting system, saying if it were truly secure, the second vote wouldn’t be tabulated. However, it is illegal to vote more than once in an election.
“They will vote and then they are going to have to 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 the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote,” Trump told WECT News. “If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.”
Trump doubled down on his statements later Wednesday afternoon while speaking to a crowd of supporters at the Wilmington airport, saying “Let them send it in, and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.”
The president continued, “If it’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do.”
North Carolina, a battleground state in the 2020 election, will begin sending absentee ballots to voters who have requested them on Friday.
The Trump administration and many Republicans have warned that increased mail-in voting in the upcoming election could lead to widespread voter fraud as Democrats have pushed to make voting by mail universal to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, attorney general William Barr accused lawmakers who have pushed for increased mail-in voting of “playing with fire.”
“This is playing with fire. We’re a very closely divided country here. And people have to have confidence in the results of the election and the legitimacy of the government, and people trying to change the rules to this to this methodology which, as a matter of logic is very open to fraud and coercion, is reckless and dangerous and people are playing with fire,” he said.
He added, “We haven’t had the kind of widespread use of mailing ballots as being proposed. We’ve had absentee ballots from people who request them from a specific address. Now what we’re talking about is mailing them to everyone on the voter list when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.”
While mail-in voting has caused delays in counting and verifying results in past elections, there has been no discernable pattern of voter fraud by mail-in voting, experts say.