North Carolina’s top elections official warned voters against trying to vote twice after President Donald Trump encouraged people who mail in their ballots for November’s election to also go to the polls on Election Day.
Karen Brinson Bell, the executive director of North Carolina State Board of Elections, issued a long statement on Thursday warning that “it is illegal to vote twice in an election” and asked mail-in voters to verify their ballot was received without showing up in person on Nov. 3.
Trump, during a Wednesday visit to Wilmington, North Carolina, told supporters, “If you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in and then go make sure it counted and if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. You just vote, and then if they tabulate it very late, they’ll see you voted and it won’t count.”
“Send it in early and then go and vote,” Trump added. “And if it’s not tabulated, you vote and the vote is going to count.”
The president’s suggestion marks the latest salvo in his denunciation of mail-in voting, an option expected to be used by far more Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. He argues, without substantiation, that voting by mail carries a risk of fraud and would put his Republican Party at a disadvantage.
Trump elaborated on his remarks Thursday in a series of tweets, telling voters to “go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted). If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do).”
Bell, the North Carolina official, outlined precautions against double-voting already built into the state’s election system, and said voters can check to see whether their mail-in ballots have been received without leaving their homes.
The state will launch a system called “BallotTrax” within days that will allow voters to track their ballots through the mail “and confirm receipt by the county board of elections, much like they can track their online order or pizza delivery,” she said.
“The State Board office strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted,” she said. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading Covid-19.”
North Carolina allows provisional voting, a process in which voters can cast a ballot that’s only counted after elections officials investigate their eligibility and whether they’ve already voted. Trump didn’t specifically mention provisional voting in his remarks or tweets.
While Trump won North Carolina in 2016, a Fox News poll released on Wednesday had his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, ahead in the state, 50% to 46%. Biden leads Trump by 2 percentage points in a Monmouth University poll of North Carolina voters released Thursday.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany downplayed the president’s remarks.
“The president is not suggesting anyone do anything unlawful. What he said very clearly there is: Make sure your vote is tabulated, and if it is not, then vote,” she told Fox News on Thursday. “What this president is saying is: Verify your vote.”
In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said state and local officials were “playing with fire” if they sent out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots for the election.
“We haven’t had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots that’s being proposed,” Barr said. “Now what we’re talking about is mailing them to everyone on the voter list when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.”
He offered no evidence for his assertions.
For years, some Republicans have been raising alarms about widespread voter fraud in the U.S., despite a lack of evidence, and they have used those warnings to promote state laws that require people to show identification at polling places and other restrictions.
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