Trump threatens Mich. over same policy Arizona will use on early ballots
President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan over a plan to give every voter in the state an opportunity to vote by mail in this year's elections – the same thing that Arizona election officials will do this year.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, announced on Tuesday that she would send every voter in the state an application to vote by mail for upcoming elections in August and November. The move is intended to reduce in-person voting in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, one of the states that has been hit hardest by the virus.
There are about 7.7 million registered voters in Michigan, 1.3 million of whom are already on the state's permanent early voting list.
Benson's plan earned her a sharp rebuke on Wednesday morning from Trump, who has repeatedly inveighed against voting by mail, claiming – without evidence – that it is susceptible to fraud and that it aids Democrats.
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
"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!" tweeted Trump, who inaccurately claimed in an earlier tweeted, which he later deleted, that Michigan plans to send absentee ballots to all registered voters, not applications.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, announced in March that she would do the same thing, mailing applications for the state's Permanent Early Voting List to every voter who isn't already signed up for it. In the wake of Trump's tirade against Michigan, Hobbs proudly touted her plan. She retweeted Benson's explanation to Trump that her plan is not, in fact, illegal, and noted that she's doing the same thing in Arizona.
We are doing this in AZ too! https://t.co/tmiBRChaZ4
— Katie Hobbs (@katiehobbs) May 20, 2020
"We are doing this in AZ too!" Hobbs tweeted.
Hobbs told the Mirror that her office is coordinating with election officials in the state's 15 counties. If any county doesn't send applications to voters, Hobbs said her office will, though she's not aware of any county that doesn't plan to do so. The counties and the secretary of state's office are also planning a publicity campaign to coincide with the mailing of the applications.
Hobbs indicated that she isn't concerned that Trump will target Arizona like he's done with Michigan.
"He's had Michigan in the crosshairs for quite a while, and obviously has been attacking their governor for quite a while. We don't have the same situation here, so who knows?" Hobbs said.
Trump also made a similar threat to Nevada, where Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, announced in March that the state would send mail-in ballots to all voters for the June 9 primary election.
State of Nevada "thinks" that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can't! If they do, "I think" I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections. @RussVought45 @USTreasury
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
"State of Nevada 'thinks' that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can't! If they do, 'I think' I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
Trump has not made similar threats to other states that are also mailing vote-by-mail applications to voters, including Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska or West Virginia. Trump is projected to win those states, while Michigan and Nevada are swing states that could determine the outcome of his re-election. He also hasn't made any threats over Hobbs's plan in Arizona, a traditionally Republican state that some believe could go Democratic in November.
Trump and members of his administration have struggled to explain why they believe Benson's plan is illegal. According to multiple media outlets, the plan is perfectly legal and Michigan state law allows absentee voting for any reason. Cegavske emphasized in a press release that a judge recently ruled that she had the authority to declare an all-mail election.
Democratic lawmakers in Arizona pushed for all-mail voting in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but their Republican colleagues largely rejected the idea. Some, like Trump, argued that it would invite voter fraud, though election officials of both parties in states with all-mail voting say that's not the case.
Others said they opposed the idea because people should have the opportunity to vote in person if they want. Most all-mail states still allow voters to cast ballots in person on election.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.