Aug 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Mark Meadows clashes with CNN's Jake Tapper over mail-in voting

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows argued for more than 20 minutes with host Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday over the viability of "universal" mail-in voting, arguing that states that are sending ballots to all registered voters are "just asking for a disaster."

Why it matters: The issue of mail-in voting during the pandemic has quickly become one of the most contentious debates in U.S. politics, especially in light of recent operational changes made to the U.S. Postal Service that have caused widespread delays and backlogs.

  • President Trump and others in the administration have led a campaign to undermine the credibility of universal mail-in voting ahead the election, though they have repeatedly said they have no problem with absentee ballots.
  • Fraud from mail-in voting has historically been rare, according to the Brennan Center. Oregon — a state that votes primarily by mail — has documented only about a dozen cases of fraud out of more than 100 million ballots since 2000.

Driving the news: President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump last week received their absentee ballots to vote in Florida. The White House and Trump campaign argue that absentee ballots and mail-in voting are different, but election experts say there is no real distinction.

Key exchange:

MEADOWS: "The problem that we have here is that a lot of people are looking at just sending out ballots. California is sending out ballots. When they just send out ballots, my home state of North Carolina —"
TAPPER: "California already did that for about 75% of its population. Now it's 100%. But Utah has done it for years. Oregon has done it for years. Washington has done it for years. Now there are four states that are adding to the sending out ballots to every registered voter. I understand that that's a concern that you're claiming. "
MEADOWS: "Isn't it a concern to you? Do you realize how inaccurate the voter rolls are with just people just moving around? Let alone the people that die off. But sending ballots out based on a voter roll registration? Any time you move, you change your driver's license but you don't call up and say, by the way, I'm reregistering for -- "
TAPPER: "But there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud. "
MEADOWS: "There's no evidence that there's not either. That's the definition of fraud, Jake."

What to watch: Meadows suggested that the White House would be open to passing a standalone bill — separate from coronavirus stimulus negotiations — to fund the U.S. Postal Service.

Go deeper: The 2020 election will be like no other because of mail-in voting

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