Trump misstates Michigan mail-in ballot policy, threatens federal funding

Source: Politico | May 20, 2020 | Zach Montellaro and Quint Forgey

The president has remained adamantly opposed to mail-in elections amid the pandemic.

President Donald Trump mischaracterized Michigan’s absentee ballot policies on Wednesday while threatening federal funding to the state if election officials there do not retreat from measures meant to facilitate mail-in voting.

The ultimatum from the White House, which Trump tried to downplay later in the day, comes as Michigan, a state crucial to Trump’s reelection chances, combats the fallout from a particularly severe coronavirus outbreak.

“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” Trump 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!”

He then followed up with another message mentioning the official Twitter accounts for acting White House budget director Russ Vought, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the Treasury Department. Hours later, the president deleted his original tweet and re-sent a similar tweet that said “absentee ballot applications” without noting his original mistake.

The president’s tweets inaccurately described a recent policy change in Michigan, where Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, announced Tuesday that all of the state’s registered voters would be mailed absentee ballot applications for the August down-ballot primaries and November general election — not a ballot directly.

Responding to the president, the secretary tweeted that “I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson,” and noted her office was sending applications “like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.”

It is unclear who the president thinks needs to authorize Michigan’s decision; Republicans in Congress for years have resisted efforts to inject federal oversight into state and local elections.

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Moments after the briefing, during a meeting with the governors of Arkansas and Kansas, Trump appeared to slightly walk back his threat to Michigan.

Asked by reporters which funding he wanted to freeze, Trump said only that he had “very specific funding in mind“ and pledged to keep the media apprised of whether a hold on funding would ultimately be necessary.

“I don’t think it‘s going to be necessary,“ he added.

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