US attorney general seconds Trump warning on mail-in voting
Attorney General William Barr on Sunday assailed the use of mail-in ballots in US elections, saying they could “open the floodgates of potential fraud.” His comment, in an interview with Fox News, echoed repeated assertions by President Donald Trump warning US states, without evidence of wrongdoing, against using mail-in ballots in the November elections.
At a time of “intense division in the country,” Barr said on Fox, elections permit a peaceful transfer of power. But he said mail-in ballots “open the floodgates of potential fraud” and undermine public confidence in an election’s outcome. He suggested that people’s ballots could be stolen from mailboxes -- or even that some foreign power could print up “tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots” to sway the outcome.
Election experts have been skeptical of such claims. Many states and localities have used mail-in ballots for years, with little evidence of more than isolated problems. And overseas Americans and military troops posted abroad have voted by mail with no serious complaints of fraud. But the practice has drawn close scrutiny this year.
With primary elections coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, polling stations in several states have seen voters standing in long lines for hours, partly because of social distancing, raising concerns about the spread of the disease. The political impact of mail-in voting is not entirely clear.
There has been speculation that it might favor Democrats, as some lower-income voters might have more trouble making it to polling places than wealthier Republicans. But mail-in ballots are also popular in some rural areas where Trump is particularly strong. The president’s sharp criticism has added a political spin to the debate. In one of his all-capitals Twitter posts last month, Trump wrote that “MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE.
IT WILL ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY.” Last month Twitter twice took the rare step of cautioning readers about Trump’s posts on mailin voting, linking to a CNN article saying the president’s claims of fraud were unsubstantiated.
Some Democratic critics have speculated that Trump, who warned before his surprise 2016 election victory that the vote might be “rigged,” was laying the groundwork in case he loses in November to Democrat Joe Biden, who leads in recent opinion polls.But Trump himself voted by mail-in ballot in the 2018 midterm elections, after changing his voter registration from New York to Florida.