Barr Floats Wild-Eyed Claim That Foreign Actors Could Counterfeit Vote By Mail Ballots

Attorney General William Barr participates in a press conference at the Department of Justice on February 10, 2020. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
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June 1, 2020 10:25 a.m.

To explain President Trump’s baseless crusade against vote-by-mail, Attorney General Bill Barr floated an unsubstantiated theory that foreign governments could hijack vote-by-mail elections by counterfeiting ballots.

“We’ve been talking about how, in terms of foreign influence, there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in. And it’d be very hard to sort out what’s happening,” Barr said in a New York Times profile that was published Monday morning. Barr had been asked about President Trump’s tweets railing against Michigan’s plans to send voters absentee ballot applications and threatening to withhold federal funding to the state.

Before making the comments, he cautioned that he hadn’t “looked into” the theory.

The theory ignores the numerous safeguards election officials have put in place to secure the integrity of ballots submitted absentee. Among them are the bar codes many states put on absentee ballots that allow voters to track the progress of their individual ballot through the mail system.

Additionally, a hypothetical foreign government would have to counterfeit not just the ballot itself — which reflects the specific precinct to which a voter belongs and the specific contests in which she is eligible to participate — but the sophisticated envelope the voter uses to send her ballot back, as well as the envelope that keeps her completed ballot secret.

Once the ballot is received by elections officials, they also compare the signature on file for a voter to the one she signed on her ballot, providing another layer of security.

Election experts gawked at Barr’s theory on Twitter.

Before further sowing the false belief that the pandemic-prompted expansion of absentee voting could lead to mass fraud, Barr also indicated that his Justice Department was going to be taking a back seat in the legal fights over the 2020 elections.

He told the New York Times that “the voters” would referee the 2020 elections and that the Department’s role would be limited.

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