President Donald Trump had a conniption on Wednesday upon learning that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had begun sending all registered voters applications in the swing state that would make it easier to vote in the November elections by mail.
“This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State,” Trump tweeted while erroneously reporting that Benson had sent absentee ballots. “I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”
He followed up with a second tweet tagging acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and the Treasury department’s Twitter handle.
Trump later posted the exact same threatening tweet with the correction that Michigan voters were being sent mail-in voting applications, not absentee ballots.
Benson announced on Tuesday that her office had begun sending the applications to voters to let them mail in their ballots as a safer alternative to in-person voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As of November 2018, Michigan voters are already allowed to mail in their votes, and there is nothing that indicates Benson’s actions were illegal.
The state official dismissed Trump’s threats in a phone interview with TPM on Wednesday, saying she has no plans to stop sending the applications and that she’s “trying to stay above the fray of mudslinging.”
“We’re moving full steam ahead in doing our work,” Benson said.
She also pointed out that her initiative was funded by the sweeping COVID-19 response package that Trump had signed.
“This is something we’re able to do by federal funding,” the official told TPM.
And contrary to Trump’s claims, there has been “no evidence” of voter fraud caused by mail-in voting in Michigan, Benson said.
She fired back at Trump after he posted his corrected tweet that claimed “a rogue Secretary of State” sent the applications “illegally.”
“Still wrong,” Benson tweeted. “Every Michigan registered voter has a right to vote by mail. I have the authority & responsibility to make sure that they know how to exercise this right – just like my GOP colleagues are doing in GA, IA, NE and WV.”
“Also, again, my name is Jocelyn Benson,” she added.
Several hours after ranting about Michigan, Trump made a virtually identical threat against Nevada, which started sending mail-in ballots for the state’s June primary elections at the beginning of May.
“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!” he wrote. “If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections. @RussVought45 @USTreasury.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) slammed Trump’s threat via Twitter and, like Benson, made it clear that his state would not be cowed into reversing its vote-by-mail operation.
“Nevada is widely recognized as being a national leader in election administration, and we will continue to support the safest, most accessible election possible under these unprecedented circumstances,” the governor tweeted. “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.”
Trump had thrown a similar tantrum several weeks ago over California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) executive order to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters in his state.
The President accused California Democrats of “trying to steal another election” and demanded that the votes in the blue state be thrown out.
“These votes must not count,” he tweeted. “SCAM!”
Trump has been railing against mail-in voting recently, despite the fact that he himself voted by mail in Florida’s primary elections in March, because it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
He also falsely claims that mailing in ballots is “corrupt” and leads to voter fraud, even though there have been no reports of fraud from states that already had mail-in voting systems even before the COVID-19 pandemic.