President Trump called the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., which is the highest in the world, a ‘badge of honor.’ USA TODAY
Update, 10:37 a.m.
Nevada’s governor called President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold funding over the state’s mail-in voting plan “inappropriate and outrageous,” in a tweet on Wednesday.
“For the President to threaten federal funding in the midst of a pandemic over a state exercising its authority to run elections in a safe and legal manner is inappropriate and outrageous,” Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted in response to the president.
Trump threatens funding over Nevada’s mail-in voting plan
President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened in a tweet to “hold up funds” bound for Nevada over the state’s plan to vote by mail in the upcoming primary election.
Trump claimed Nevada’s plan was “illegal,” though a federal judge in early May upheld the state’s authority to change the normal procedures in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan, announced in March by Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, still allows voters to cast their ballots in person if they choose.
The upcoming election has no bearing on the presidential race because Nevada held its Democratic presidential caucus in February, and canceled its Republican presidential caucus.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
It was not immediately clear how Trump could delay the funds, which come from coronavirus relief spending measures he signed into law. Trump tagged his acting budget director, his chief of staff and the Treasury Department on the tweets.
Trump has been very vocal about his opposition to voting by mail, claiming the practice is ripe for fraud although there is scant evidence of widespread wrongdoing with mail-in voting. Trump himself requested a mail ballot for Florida’s GOP primary last month and he has voted absentee in previous elections.
Trump says people should have to show up at polling stations and present ID to vote.
But the coronavirus pandemic has upended that long-standing practice, with many voters fearful of waiting in line at polling stations and voting on machines that have been touched others.
Republicans have tried to portray Trump’s crusade against mail voting as a principled stand rather than a partisan attack on Democrats, but his tweets undermined that argument.
Trump also threatened to hold up coronavirus relief money for Michigan after he said — erroneously — that the state had sent absentee ballots to millions of voters.
On Monday, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the party had no problem with a system like the one Michigan proposed.
Republicans have pushed back against Democratic plans to send ballots to all voters, as Nevada’s Republican secretary of state is doing for her state’s primary.
Trump’s own campaign has tried to present his opposition to mail ballots as nuanced rather than a blatant attempt to limit Democratic votes, insisting that a line should be drawn at sending ballots to all voters. Five states already mail ballots to all voters and there have been no major instances of fraud due to that system.
Michigan spent $4.5 million in federal funds to mail absentee ballot applications to all 7.7 million registered voters for the August primary and November general election.
Michigan is a crucial presidential battleground state that Trump, a Republican, narrowly won in 2016.
Michigan is among states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump and the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, have clashed over federal assistance during the crisis. Trump tweeted Wednesday as the state grappled with its latest challenge, severe flooding in one central Michigan county after two dams failed, forcing thousands to evacuate.
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.
RGJ Reporter Sam Gross also contributed to this report. Sam Gross is a breaking news reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal who covers wildfires, emergencies and more. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com.
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