Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET
President Trump, who has frequently criticized mail-in voting, on Wednesday took his attacks on the process a step further, telling supporters in North Carolina they should go to polls even after voting by mail to “make sure it counted.”
Voting twice would be a felony under North Carolina law — as is inducing someone to vote twice — warned Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, who issued a statement Thursday morning.
“The State Board has a dedicated investigations team that investigates allegations of double voting, which are referred to prosecutors when warranted,” said Bell.
The warning came after Trump told a group of supporters in Wilmington, N.C., airport: “If you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in, and then go — make sure it counted. And if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. You just vote. And then if they tabulate it very late, which they shouldn’t be doing, they’ll see you voted, and so it won’t count. So, send it in early, and then go and vote. And if it’s not tabulated — you vote. And the vote is going to count,” Trump said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that the president “does not condone unlawful voting” in Thursday’s press briefing.
Earlier, White House spokesman Judd Deere denied that Trump was urging people to vote twice and said the news media was taking his remarks out of context.
“No one has fought harder for an election system that is fair and free from fraud and abuse than President Trump. This idea that he is encouraging people to vote twice is yet another example of the media taking him out of context,” Deere said in a statement.
While nine states and the District of Columbia are proactively sending ballots to all registered voters, North Carolina is not, and neither is the state sending out absentee ballot applications to voters, as an additional nine states are.
In a subsequent interview with WCET Television, Trump was asked about his confidence in the state’s absentee voting system. “They’ll go out and they’ll vote and they’re going to have to go and 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 their system’s as good as they say it is they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote so that’s the way it is.”
Amber McReynolds, who heads the National Vote At Home Institute and was a director of elections in Denver, said there are safeguards in place in most states to prevent the kind of action Trump was advocating.
When voters sign the envelope containing their ballot, “it’s very much the same as you checking in to a polling place on a poll book,” she says. “You’re essentially checking yourself off the list by turning that envelope in.”
McReynolds says if voters “show up in person and you’ve requested a mail ballot, you’re going to be given a provisional ballot because they need to confirm that your mail ballot has not been received,” she says.
Trump has frequently criticized mail-in voting, alleging without evidence that it is rife with fraud. A record number of voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail in the coming presidential election because of concerns relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a series of tweets Thursday, Trump further confused the issue, urging people who vote by mail to then go to polling places to see whether their votes had been counted.
But Bell, of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said voters should not go to polling places to check if their ballot has been counted.
“The State Board office strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted,” she said. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19.”