Claims by President Donald Trump that the use of mail-in ballots for November’s presidential election will result in “the most rigged election” in U.S. history is puzzling organizations representing state election officials, as well as key lawmakers.
Trump made the claims in a series of tweets Monday, alleging the use of mail-in ballots in several states, some being printed in foreign countries, “WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”
But representatives for the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) say if there is anything behind the allegations, the Trump administration has yet to share it with them.
“We are not aware of any evidence supporting the claims made by President Trump,” NASS communications director Maria Benson told VOA via email. “As always, we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns.
“Americans should have confidence that our elections are fairly administered and well-secured, with built-in structural safeguards to ensure accurate results,” she said.
Amy Cohen, NASED’s executive director, told VOA, “Security is of the utmost importance to state election officials.”
Both organizations, which represent state-level election officials from both the Republican and Democratic parties, also pointed to a joint statement from May that assured voters “all states have implemented a number of security measures in order to protect the integrity of the vote.”
A key lawmaker on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has issued a series of reports on Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election, also pushed back against the president’s election-rigging allegations.
“Not only has Senate intel seen no evidence of this, but the committee has recommended, on a bipartisan basis, the use of paper ballots because they are, in fact, less susceptible to interference by hostile foreign countries like Russia than traditional electronic voting systems,” Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s vice chair, told VOA.
A number of government agencies responsible for overseeing elements of U.S. election security — including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — referred questions about mail-in ballots and election rigging to the White House.
VOA questions to the White House about the president’s claims have gone unanswered.
But late Monday, Trump repeated the allegations in an interview with Scripps Television.
"There are thousands of cases all over. Thousands. I don't like the system,” Trump said when asked for examples.
“With mail-in ballots, people can forge them. Foreign countries can print them,” he added. “We're trying to stop it.”
This is not the first time Trump has criticized the use of mail-in ballots.
He first criticized voting by mail in a tweet in April, warning of voter fraud.
And in a tweet on May 24, Trump called voting-by-mail a scam that would help rig the election.
But his latest critique follows a new round of warnings from Attorney General William Barr, who told Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that the use of mail-in ballots, “absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud.”
“Right now, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and (it would) be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot,” Barr said. “It can upset and undercut the confidence in the integrity of our elections. If anything, we should tighten them up right now.”
Most U.S. states already offer some form of mail-in voting, so-called “absentee” ballots, but due to concern about the coronavirus pandemic, a number of states have moved to expand the use of mail-in ballots for the November election.
Officials with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is promising to help states using mail-in ballots in November with security, with one official calling a series of primaries held earlier this month that relied heavily on mail-in voting, “good practice.”
Still, despite concerns raised by White House officials and the attorney general about foreign countries trying to manipulate mail-in ballots, most U.S. security and intelligence officials say the bigger concern is how countries such as Russia and China are using influence operations to sway voters.
“Foreign actors continue to try to influence public sentiment and shape voter perceptions,” a statement from the departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security and Justice, with the FBI, the National Security Agency and other federal entities, warned ahead of primary elections this past March. “They spread false information and propaganda about political processes and candidates on social media in hopes to cause confusion and create doubt in our system.”
Intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency remain on alert.
“NSA continues to expand our insights about foreign adversaries in an attempt to determine their plans and intentions towards our elections,” the NSA said in a statement Monday. “This whole of government approach improves the security of our election infrastructure and disrupts foreign influence efforts against the American public.”
White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman contributed to this report.