President Trump makes a speech at the U.S.S. Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, N.C. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Trump suggested during a visit to North Carolina that people should vote once by mail and again in person during the election.

What he's saying: "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," he said. "If it isn't tabulated, they'll be able to vote. And that’s what they should do."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Margaret Talev: North Carolina is a key battleground state. Trump won it in 2016, but the latest RealClearPolitics polling average shows the state is up for grabs.

  • Trump's comments have shock value not only because he is a sitting president encouraging Americans to violate the law but because Trump himself has made such a talking point out of his fears that mail-in voting could be susceptible to fraud.

The big picture: Many states have expanded mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Trump has for months cast doubt on mail-in voting, making baseless claims that increased mail-in ballots will lead to widespread voter fraud.
  • The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the state of Montana after Gov. Steve Bullock (D) last month issued a directive allowing counties to expand mail-in and early voting.

Of note: Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh issued a statement defending the president's comments and describing laws that expand vote-by-mail as "radical."

  • "The president is now drawing attention to the reckless election law tampering Democrats are doing in states across the country, creating the very real opportunity for people to vote twice, as we know happened in Philadelphia," Murtaugh said.
  • It's unclear what case Murtaugh was specifically referring to. But Domenick J. Demuro, a former elections judge in Philadelphia, was convicted in May after admitting accepting cash bribes to tamper with the results of the city's primary elections from 2014 to 2016.

Go deeper: When and how to vote in all 50 states

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Christopher Wray: FBI has not seen evidence of national voter fraud effort by mail

FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to a question on the security of mail-in voting to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday by saying that the agency has "not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise."

Why it matters: President Trump has ramped up his claims, without evidence, that widespread mail-in voting would rig the 2020 election against him. On Wednesday, after declining to say whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election to Joe Biden, Trump said that "the ballots are out of control."

Updated Sep 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pennsylvania's "naked ballots" are 2020's hanging chads

A stack of mail-in ballot applications in Pennsylvania. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Meadows on Wray's voter fraud dismissal: "He has a hard time finding emails in his own FBI"

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dismissed FBI Director Chris Wray's testimony that the U.S. has never historically seen evidence of widespread voter fraud, including by mail, during an appearance on "CBS This Morning" on Friday.

Why it matters: Meadows' statement highlights the Trump administration's strategy to sow doubt in November's election results by challenging the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, which are expected to skew heavily in Democrats' favor.