White House seeks to clarify Trump remarks on voting twice

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted Thursday that President Trump was not suggesting people “do anything unlawful” when he encouraged voters to test the system by voting both by mail and in person.

In an interview on Fox News, McEnany said that Trump was telling voters to “verify” that their mailed ballot is counted in the upcoming November election when he made the remarks during a trip to North Carolina on Wednesday.

“The president is not suggesting anyone do anything unlawful. What he said very clearly there is make sure your vote is tabulated and if it is not, then vote,” McEnany said on Fox. 

“Basically, when you get an absentee ballot and you send it in, there are poll books and it is recorded that you have in fact voted. And if you show up at a polling site, they look at the poll book and say your vote has been counted. He wants verification,” McEnany continued.

She went on to accuse Democrats of seeking a “whole new fraudulent system of mail-in voting” by trying to expand access to mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump triggered scrutiny when he suggested, during a local TV interview in Wilmington, N.C., on Wednesday afternoon, that people should vote twice. Voting more than once in an election is illegal. 

“They will vote and then they are going to have to check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that. So let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote,” Trump told WECT News. “If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.” 

Trump then made similar remarks to a crowd of supporters at the Wilmington airport, before delivering remarks at Battleship North Carolina marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

In a series of tweets following the McEnany’s television appearance on Thursday, Trump reiterated his comments from the day prior, telling voters to mail in their ballots “as EARLY as possible” and go to polling places when in-person voting begins to ensure their votes have been counted.

“If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly,” Trump tweeted. “If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do).”  

He insisted such steps were necessary because of the “massive number of Unsolicited & Solicited Ballots that will be sent to potential Voters for the upcoming 2020 Election.”

North Carolina officials will begin sending absentee ballots to voters who have requested them on Friday. North Carolina represents a key swing state in the 2020 election. 

Following Trump’s remarks, Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina state board of elections, issued a statement emphasizing that it illegal in the state to vote or attempt to vote twice in an election.

“N.C.G.S. § 163-275(7) makes it a Class I felony for a voter, ‘with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary or election,’” Bell said. “Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law.”

Trump has repeatedly sought to cast doubt on the 2020 presidential election results and warned that expanding mail-in voting could lead to widespread fraud in the November contest. Experts say, however, that there is no evidence of meaningful fraud in mail-in voting. 

Trump in July suggested the election should be delayed over his concerns about mail-in voting and has also claimed falsely in recent speeches that the only way Democrats will win in 2020 is if the election is “rigged.”

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