May 21, 2020
Unlike President Harry Truman, when President Donald Trump says “The buck stops here,” he means that funding for those whom he dislikes or distrusts really stops at his desk, without going forward to those who need it.
On Wednesday, May 20, the president threatened to withhold federal funding to Michigan after its secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson (D), announced that all of the state’s registered voters would receive applications for absentee ballots in the mail this year, The Hill reports.
Trump charged that the step was done “illegally” and threatened to withhold funding if the state did not reverse course, suggesting the move would encourage voter fraud.
Trump later threatened to suspend federal funding to Nevada, which is holding a mail-in primary election, claiming the state was creating a “great Voter Fraud scenario” and allow people to “cheat in elections.”
“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” Trump tweeted. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”
Trump copied Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows , and the Treasury Department on his tweet about Michigan and also copied Vought and the Treasury Department on the post about Nevada.
Benson responded to Trump’s tweet, correcting him by saying that the state “sent applications, not ballots” and pointing out that Republican secretaries of state have done the same.
While voting experts say there are higher levels of voter fraud in mail-in voting than in-person voting, they agree that overall cases of voter fraud are rare, according to the news outlet.
“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it,” Trump tweeted last month. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
Trump can withhold federal funding from states, but would face legal hurdles in trying to do so, Elie Honig, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor told The Hill.
“First, the federal funds must relate substantively to the state-level policy at issue,” said Honig. “Second, funding restrictions can only apply to new sources of funding. The federal government can’t interrupt or impose new conditions on money that already has been allocated or is already flowing.”
Democrats have supported mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to ensure that ballots can be cast safely in the 2020 elections without risking exposure to the virus.
The $2 trillion bipartisan relief package that Trump signed into law in late March provides $400 million for states to prepare for upcoming primaries and the November general election during the coronavirus outbreak.
Benson said in a statement on Tuesday that sending mail-in applications to Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters would ensure their safety.
“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Benson said. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”
Research contact: @thehill