Donald Trump threatens states over postal 'voter fraud path'
21 May 2020, 07:07 | Updated: 21 May 2020, 07:12
Donald Trump has hit out at plans to roll out widespread postal voting in Michigan and Nevada, and threatened to hold up federal funding “if they want to go down this voter fraud path”.
The two election battleground states are trying to make it easier and safer to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.
President Trump later backpedalled on his threat, but claimed that postal voting causes "a lot of illegality".
Trump lashed out at Michigan with a tweet about the state's voting plans and threat to "hold up funding" if they continue with the voting method.
Michigan sends absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, said each of the state's 7.7 million registered voters would receive an application for an absentee ballot so they could take part in elections in August and November without needing to physically go to a polling station.
In a tweet, Mr Trump accused said Ms Benson of being “rogue” and claimed she had acted acted “illegally”.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends postal voting as a safe option during the pandemic.
Mr Trump has said repeatedly, without evidence, that mailed ballots allow widespread fraud and has worried publicly that wide availability could lead so many people to vote that Republicans would lose in November.
GOP allies have fought changes to voting in court and opposed funding to expand mail-in voting in Congress.
Wednesday marked the first time Mr Trump has tried to use federal aid money to beat it back.
Trump's claims have brought strong criticism from Democrats in Michigan and elsewhere, pointing out that the state was sending applications, not actual ballots, an error the president corrected in a subsequent tweet six hours later.
Mr Trump later tweeted a similar threat to pull back funds from Nevada, which has sent ballots to voters for its June 9 state primary.
A federal judge recently cleared Nevada's decision to mail ballots, which were sent by the Republican secretary of state.
It was not clear exactly what funds Mr Trump was referencing, but the states are paying for the voting changes with federal aid intended to support elections during the pandemic.
By Wednesday evening, Mr Trump told reporters he had spoken with Democratic Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and did not think funding would have to be cut.
"I don't think it's going to be necessary," he said at the White House, adding he stood by his opposition to mail voting.
"Voting is an honour. It shouldn't be something where they send you a pile of stuff and you send it back.
"If people mail in ballots, there's a lot of illegality."
Mr Trump himself has requested an absentee ballot to vote in Florida.
Mr Trump did not threaten Republican-dominated states that are doing the same thing as Michigan.
West Virginia governor Jim Justice, an ally of the president, said he's not concerned about Mr Trump's threats even though his administration approved mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the state.
"I can't imagine that the president is going to withhold funding in any way to West Virginia; that's not going to happen," Mr Justice told reporters.