President Trump in a Sunday night tweet said that due to the "process" voters must go through to obtain an absentee ballot, such voting is safer than general mail-in balloting — and he pointed to a voter-fraud scandal out of New Jersey back in May as evidence that universal mail-in voting would cause widespread problems.
The president's contention comes as he and Republicans across the country have resisted Democratic pushes for universal mail-in voting in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and after the president and members of his administration were criticized as hypocritical for voting absentee themselves while opposing mail-in voting. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 12 times in recent years, CBS reported, and Trump this year voted by mail in Florida, according to CNBC.
"Absentee Ballots are fine," Trump tweeted. "A person has to go through a process to get and use them. Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. (sic) 19% of Ballots a FRAUD!"
Trump made a similar point last week on a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity, when he was asked about absentee and mail-in voting.
"People go through a process for that — but the mail-in ballots, they mail them to anybody and they send them out by the millions," Trump said. "We went through World War I and we voted, we went through World War II and we voted. And now we have a virus, and by that time [November] it’ll be less and less."
McEnany, originally responding to reports of her absentee voting history, said that she had a legitimate reason for voting the way she did because she was traveling, whereas Democrats are promoting either no-excuse absentee voting or universal mail-in voting.
“Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason. It means you’re absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person,” she said in a statement to NBC News. “President Trump is against the Democrat plan to politicize the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud. This is a simple distinction that the media fails to grasp."
Fron left to right, Paterson Councilman Michael Jackson, Shelim Khalique, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez and Abu Kazyen were all slapped with voter fraud-related charges by the New Jersey Attorney General last week. (New Jersey Office of the Attorney General)
The president also pointed to a scandal from a local election in Paterson, N.J., on May 12, that led to charges against four individuals, including a city councilman and a councilman-elect, according to a statement from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
As an all-mail-in election for city council in Paterson was being conducted, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service told the New Jersey AG's office that "hundreds of mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Paterson. Numerous additional ballots were found in a mailbox in nearby Haledon."
Grewal, after an investigation, last week brought voter fraud-related charges against First Ward Councilman and Council Vice President Michael Jackson and 3rd Ward Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, as well as two other men who allegedly were involved in the voter fraud.
"Today’s charges send a clear message: if you try to tamper with an election in New Jersey, we will find you and we will hold you accountable,” Grewal said. “We will not allow a small number of criminals to undermine the public’s confidence in our democratic process."
Further, 19 percent of the ballots in the election were rejected – NBC 4 New York reported that 16,747 mail-in ballots were received in the election, but the county officially counted only 13,557 – though it's not clear whether they were fraudulent as Trump claimed.
Democrats and the media have often pointed to a lack of evidence that mail-in voting, and absentee voting, lead to voter fraud. Twitter in the past has even flagged tweets from Trump about mail-in voter fraud, and said that "Trump claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to 'a Rigged Election.' However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud."
"Evidence of voter fraud in general is extremely rare, and that is true of absentee balloting too. In both 2016 and 2018, approximately 25 percent of U.S. voters cast mail ballots," Trevor Potter of the Campaign Legal Center wrote in an op-ed for Fox News on Sunday. "Justin Levitt, an election law expert at Loyola Law School, reviewed U.S. elections between 2000-2014 and found just 31 instances of voter fraud over a period when over 1 billion votes were cast."
But there is little precedent for mail-in voting on the scale Democrats propose. Attorney General William Barr on Fox News Sunday said that universal or near-universal mail-in voting would make American elections especially vulnerable.
"When state governments start adopting these practices like mail-in ballots, that open the floodgates to potential fraud, then peoples' confidence in the outcome of the election is going to be undermined," Barr said. "That could take the country to a very dark place."
Fox News' Brie Stimson contributed to this report.