White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered no clarity Thursday on President Donald Trump’s call for people to try voting twice, once by mail and once in person, to test the U.S. electoral system.
The subject came up when a reporter asked her to acknowledge that voting twice in the same election is illegal.
“The president does not condone unlawful voting,” McEnany responded. “The president’s been very clear about this. Once again, not surprised the media is taking the president out of context.”
Trump caused a stir on Wednesday when he told a group of supporters in North Carolina that they should vote by mail ― a process he has repeatedly claimed without evidence is ripe for voter fraud― and then see what happens when they try to vote in-person, too.
“If you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in and then go — make sure it counted,” he said. “And if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. You just vote. And then if they tabulate it very late, which they shouldn’t be doing, they’ll see you voted, and so it won’t count. So, send it in early, and then go and vote. And if it’s not tabulated — you vote. And the vote is going to count.”
He said the same to reporters that day: “Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.”
The president later tweeted the suggestion, too. (Twitter partially blocked those posts on the grounds that they violated its rules on “civic and election integrity.”)
Double voting is illegal and carries felony charges in some states.
McEnany argued that Trump’s suggestion was simply a way for people to “verify that your vote’s been counted” if they mailed it in. “If it is not tabulated, meaning your mail-in vote, then you will be able to vote in person,” she stated.
That’s not entirely true. In 14 states, including a few battleground ones, officials won’t start authenticating any mail-in ballots until Election Day, let alone begin tabulating them.
State election officials are now scrambling to correct Trump’s misinformation. The executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections issued a warning about the penalties that come with voting twice and emphasized that the state carries out an audit after each election to identify double voters and ensure only one of their ballots is counted.
McEnany argued Thursday that people need ways to verify that their votes are counted because of the 319,000 mail-in ballots that weren’t counted in the 2016 election. That amounted to about 1% of all mail-in ballots submitted, and most of those were rejected because they missed the voting deadline or had a problem with the envelope or signature on the ballot. The number of in-person votes that ultimately weren’t counted in 2016 was about a third less.
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