Trump Threatens to Revoke Federal Funding from Michigan and Nevada Over Mail Voting Applications
“For the President to threaten federal funding in the midst of a pandemic over a state exercising its authority to run elections in a safe and legal manner is inappropriate and outrageous.”
President Donald Trump continued to attack vote-by-mail initiatives on Wednesday, particularly in Michigan and Nevada. In Michigan, all registered voters were mailed applications to receive ballots in the mail. The situation in Nevada is similar with a twist: ballots were sent to voters for an exclusively mail-only primary election, a measure endorsed by the state’s Republican Secretary of State.
The president let loose on Twitter, condemning the pair of states for expanding vote-by-mail options, accusing them of contributing to voter fraud, and threatening to cancel funding for the states, The New York Times reported.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
“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,” he added in a followup tweet.
Although Trump accused Michigan of supplying ballots to all voters, the state actually sent applications to request ballots, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. The same application is also available online.
“I was notified about the tweet this morning and it caught me off guard because it of course was inaccurate,” Benson said. “It is nothing different from what my Republican colleagues in other states are doing. It boggles my mind, that this, which is completely within my authority, would in any way be seen as controversial.”
The Democratic secretary pointed to red states such as Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, and West Virginia as evidence of similar voter initiatives from Republican strongholds.
Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak defended the right for states to conduct elections as they see fit.
“For the President to threaten federal funding in the midst of a pandemic over a state exercising its authority to run elections in a safe and legal manner is inappropriate and outrageous,” Sisolak tweeted.
Michigan and Nevada are far from the first states to offer applications and ballots by mail. New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and North Dakota all moved to vote-by-mail for this year’s primary elections, and California is providing all voters with ballots for the general election, Newsweek reported.
Furthermore, five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregan, Utah, and Washington — all utilize mail voting exclusively.
At the national level, the Republican National Committee has even mailed absentee ballot applications in states that have no-excuse absentee voting, The New York Times reported. The applications come with prepaid envelopes addressed to the local county offices.
Unproven Fraud Allegations
While Trump claims mail-in voting encourages fraud, no evidence for that exists. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has logged cases for the past 20 years. Over that span of time, there have only been 1,285 cases, with only 204 carried out via absentee ballot.
Studies from Stanford and the Union of Concerned Scientists further established that voter fraud by absentee ballots are a nonissue and that the few cases that have occurred did not benefit one party exclusively.
The president formed a commission to investigate voter fraud shortly after he took office, but the panel never uncovered evidence of fraud, despite Trump’s claim of “substantial evidence.” The commission was folded 7 months after its creation and never issued a report. Even so, the president and GOP have fought against vote-by-mail initiatives in the run up to the election.
Trump’s threat of removing federal funding for states is another issue that is debatable, separate from voter fraud allegations and ballot initiatives, CNN reported. Samuel Bagenstos, professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan, argued it is outside of his scope of power to restrict funding.
“It’s pretty clearly not a thing that he’s allowed to do,” Bagenstos said. “The President doesn’t just get to decide that he’s not going to spend appropriated funds because he doesn’t like what states are doing.”
Trump has often used threats of pulling funding as leverage. Most recently, he has employed the tactic at the international level to stop funding for the World Health Organization over alleged China-favoritism.
Swing State Problems
Nevada and Wisconsin are both swing states in presidential elections. In 2016, Trump won them both. Before him, Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all won their respective elections in Nevada. While Nevada has backed the winning candidate since 1912, Wisconsin has backed a few losers, most recently John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000.
Obama was the only recent candidate to secure 50% of the vote in both states. Trump won Nevada with 45.5% and Wisconsin by 47.22%, numbers that suggest the state could be up for grabs in November’s contest.