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