U.S. President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that voters in the state of North Carolina should vote twice in the November election, once in person and once by mail, to make sure their vote was counted.
“So, let them send it in and let them go vote,” Trump said in an interview with WECT-TV in Wilmington, N.C., when asked about the security of mail-in votes. “And if the system is as good as they say it is then obviously they won’t be able to vote” in person.
Activists raised concerns over Trump’s remarks, saying what he suggested was in violation of law and urging the public not to listen to his suggestion.
“Casting two ballots is illegal. Don’t listen to the president,” the American Civil Liberties Union said on Twitter.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Wednesday that mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election could be vulnerable to fraud, echoing an argument Trump has made to denounce the use of voting by mail.
Trump, in a series of tweets on Thursday morning, expanded on his original message.
Those voting by mail, he said, should do so as early as possible and then go to their local polling location to assure “YOUR PRECIOUS VOTE HAS BEEN COUNTED.”
Voting more than once in an election is illegal, and in some states, including North Carolina, it is a felony not only to vote more than once but also to induce another to do so.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections had no immediate comment on Trump’s remarks.
Unproven claims about mail voting
Trump has previously said the voting method is susceptible to large-scale fraud, though experts say voter fraud of any kind is extremely rare in the United States.
Voting by mail is not new in the United States — nearly one in four voters cast presidential ballots in 2016 that way.
A record number of mail-in ballots are expected for the Nov. 3 election due to concerns about in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, President Trump outrageously encouraged NCians to break the law in order to help him sow chaos in our election. Make sure you vote, but do NOT vote twice! I will do everything in my power to make sure the will of the people is upheld in November.
That prospect raises the possibility a winner may not be clear on election night given the time it will take to count and verify all the ballots.
Trump has accused Democrats of trying to steal the election by pushing for the increased use of mail-in voting. Trump’s re-election campaign has recently sued states like Montana, New Jersey and Nevada for expanding access to mail-in voting.
Democrats have said Trump and fellow Republicans are attempting to suppress the vote to help their side.
Josh Stein, North Carolina’s Democratic attorney general, accused the president of trying to “sow chaos in our election.”
Trump has seen some social media posts censured by the platforms for raising specious claims about the vulnerability of voting by mail.
Ironically, Trump’s comments came in the very state that saw the most notable suspected voting fraud case in the 2018 congressional midterm elections, orchestrated by a Republican operative on behalf of candidate Mark Harris.
Leslie McRae Dowless was accused of inducing some election workers to falsely sign off on absentee ballots they did not directly witness.
Dowless was indicted by a North Carolina grand jury, a case still working its way through the courts.
Harris won the 2018 vote in the Ninth District by less than 1,000 votes, but the alleged scheme led to a rerun election in 2019. That contest was won by Republican Dan McCready after Harris elected not to run again.