On Wednesday morning, President Trump threatened to withhold federal funds from the state of Nevada if they continue to send out what he believes are “illegal” vote-by-mail ballots, arguing that this constituted voter fraud (it doesn’t) and that the state cannot do this (they can).
It appears the president must have watched something on FOX News about how Nevada is holding an unprecedented all-mail-in primary in June and is deeply worried about the precedent that this would set for the nation, even though studies show vote-by-mail does not hold any partisan advantage for one side or the other.
State of Nevada “thinks” that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t! If they do, “I think” I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections. @RussVought45 @USTreasury
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
There is nothing illegal about mail-in ballots; each state manages their own elections and this move was instituted by Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State in response to the pandemic that President Trump’s negligence and mismanagement allowed to spread. Nevada already allows any voter to vote by mail.
What might actually be illegal is Trump’s attempt to withhold federal funding to bully states into doing his will.
His tweet about Nevada followed closely on the heels of a similar outburst aimed at Michigan, which he incorrectly accused of sending out absentee ballots; in reality, they have sent out applications for absentee ballots for those who wish to vote by mail.
Federal funds can be withheld only if (1) the funds relate to the specific state policy and (2) the funding source is new (can’t interrupt an already-existing funding stream). https://t.co/dUN3uuCg0s
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) May 20, 2020
It is very telling that as the president’s re-election chances grow dimmer and dimmer, his undemocratic urges to repress America’s right to vote grow stronger and stronger. Voter fraud is and always has been a nonexistent threat that Republican states use to disenfranchise minorities and rig the electorate in their favor, but it is unprecedented for a president to be so flagrant in his efforts to undermine America’s democracy.
The 2020 election may very well be the most important in all of American history, as Trump is making it clear it would be the last if he had his way.
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Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.