May 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump eases up on threat to withhold funding to Michigan over mail-in ballots

President Trump appeared to walk back his earlier threat on Wednesday to withhold unspecified federal funding to Michigan after attacking the state for expanding voting-by-mail options during the pandemic, telling reporters that he doesn't think it will be "necessary."

Catch up quick: Trump incorrectly tweeted Wednesday morning that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had sent all of the state's citizens mail-in ballots. He later issued a corrected tweet specifying that Benson had only sent citizens mail-in ballot applications.

  • Trump's tweets claimed the move was "done illegally and without authorization" and that he would ask to "hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path."
  • There is no evidence that the move to send out absentee ballot applications is illegal, and it's unclear whether the president has the power to alter or withhold any appropriated funds to states without congressional approval.
  • Trump did not threaten states with Republican governors like Georgia and Iowa that are also sending absentee ballot applications to all voters.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed at a press conference that "many" mail-in ballots can be "fraudulent," but declined to say what Trump thought was illegal about Michigan's move. She deferred further questions to the Trump campaign.

  • While Trump seemed to walk back the threat to withhold federal funding, he said that he believes "mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing" and are "subject to massive fraud."

Between the lines: Many states have placed an increased emphasis on access to early voting this year in order to promote social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • But the Republican Party and Trump's re-election campaign have largely sought to push back against attempts to expand mail-in voting.
  • "Democrats are trying to use coronavirus and the courts to legalize ballot harvesting, implement a nationwide mail-in ballot system, and eliminate nearly every safeguard in our elections," a newly launched site by the Republican National Committee reads.

Experts have found voting fraud to be rare in the U.S., but do conclude that mail-in voting is more susceptible, per the New York Times.

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