With claim on bo­gus bal­lots from over­seas, Trump sows more doubt on mail-in vot­ing

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION&WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump opened a new front Mon­day in his fight against mail-in vot­ing, as­sert­ing that for­eign coun­tries will print mil­lions of bo­gus bal­lots to rig the re­sults and cre­ate what he called the “scan­dal of our times.”

States have im­ple­mented safe­guards to pre­vent against wide­spread fraud. Trump’s state­ments also may risk un­der­min­ing Amer­i­cans’ faith in the elec­tion.

The state­ments, com­ing as states scramble to ad­just vot­ing pro­cesses be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, could be a twotrack ap­proach of try­ing to block mail-in bal­lot­ing in ad­vance and set­ting the stage for chal­leng­ing the re­sults af­ter the elec­tion.

“It’s a way of try­ing to turn the for­eign in­ter­fer­ence claims that have been made on their head,” said Richard Hasen, an elec­tion law ex­pert at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine. “Typ­i­cally, we’ve heard that the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and oth­ers were work­ing to help elect Trump, and here is Trump us­ing fears of for­eign in­ter­fer­ence as a way of bol­ster­ing his own side.”

Though elec­tion records show that a half-dozen se­nior ad­vis­ers to the pres­i­dent have voted by mail, oth­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion have em­braced the no­tion that states could be in­un­dated with fraud­u­lent bal­lots from over­seas.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr raised that prospect in in­ter­views in re­cent weeks with The New York Times mag­a­zine and Fox News.

The pres­i­dent tweeted on Mon­day a news re­port on Barr’s re­marks as well as a sep­a­rate mes­sage that said: “RIGGED 2020 ELEC­TION: MIL­LIONS OF MAIL-IN BAL­LOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOR­EIGN COUN­TRIES, AND OTH­ERS. IT WILL BE THE SCAN­DAL OF OUR TIMES!”

But ex­perts say that sce­nario is un­likely.

“Comments like that demon­strate an ig­no­rance of by-mail vot­ing and the tech­nol­ogy as­so­ci­ated with how it ac­tu­ally works,” said Ed­die Perez, global di­rec­tor of tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment at the OSET In­sti­tute, a non­profit tech­nol­ogy re­search cor­po­ra­tion.

The Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures does list on its web­site mul­ti­ple dis­ad­van­tages to the process, in­clud­ing slower re­port­ing of re­sults and the pos­si­bil­ity that vot­ers could be co­erced by fam­ily or friends.

But the list doesn’t broach the idea of for­eign coun­tries man­u­fac­tur­ing their own bal­lots — a type of fraud that would en­counter sig­nif­i­cant prac­ti­cal ob­sta­cles, not least be­cause states say they are adept at dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing le­git­i­mate bal­lots from in­au­then­tic ones.

Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Ore­gon, Utah and Wash­ing­ton — con­duct elec­tions en­tirely by mail, ac­cord­ing to the NCSL.

But nearly all states, led by Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can gov­er­nors alike, of­fer some form of the op­tion.

With health of­fi­cials say­ing that vot­ing by mail can help pre­vent the spread of the coro­n­avirus, many states are mov­ing ahead with plans that ease ac­cess to mail-in bal­lots.

Wis­con­sin re­cently de­cided to send ab­sen­tee bal­lot re­quests to nearly all vot­ers. Michi­gan, an­other swing state, has taken that step as well.

Trump has noted the trend, telling Politico in an in­ter­view pub­lished Fri­day that the “big­gest risk” to his re-elec­tion is the grow­ing use of mail-in bal­lots, and sug­gested that his chances may de­pend on whether he can pre­vail in court against ef­forts to make ab­sen­tee vot­ing eas­ier.

Joe Bi­den’s cam­paign said Mon­day that the for­mer vice pres­i­dent would com­mit to par­tic­i­pat­ing in three de­bates, and crit­i­cized a push by Trump’s ad­vis­ers for ad­di­tional de­bates as an “ef­fort to change the sub­ject.”

“Any ‘de­bate pro­pos­als’ in lieu of that are just an ef­fort to change the sub­ject, avoid de­bates, or cre­ate a dis­tract­ing ‘de­bate about de­bates,’” the Bi­den cam­paign added.

The let­ter, which was first re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Post, came in re­sponse to a re­quest made by Trump cam­paign man­ager Brad Parscale and for­mer New York Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani to add an­other, ear­lier de­bate to the cur­rent sched­ule of three. They also pro­posed that each cam­paign have a role in se­lect­ing the de­bate mod­er­a­tors.

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