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Following a suggestion from the president that voters test whether their mail-in votes were counted by casting another at the polls, state attorneys general are begging voters not to follow the advice.
A group of 25 state attorneys general released a joint statement on Labor Day reminding voters that it is illegal to intentionally vote twice in an election and urging them not to do so. The statement comes after President Trump repeatedly suggested voters show up at the polls to vote after first casting a mail-in ballot.
“It’s against the law to vote twice in the election,” the statement from the attorneys general, all Democrats, reads. “That is true everywhere in the United States. Anyone who intentionally votes twice faces serious legal consequences. So do those who direct others to engage in this illegal conduct.”
The letter is signed by several attorneys general who are frequently at odds with the Republican president, including those from California, New York, Massachusetts, and Washington.
Several state election officials also released their own statements asking their constituents not to take the president’s advice. Voting twice “unnecessarily burdens election officials,” said the Ohio secretary of state. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said that "2020 has been unprecedented in so many ways, but I never imagined that as secretary of state I would have to inform … the president … that it is illegal to vote twice."
President Trump first suggested that people vote twice last week in North Carolina, when he said that voting more than once would test the state’s election fraud detection system. “They are going to have to 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,” Trump said on Wednesday. “So let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if their system is as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote.”
North Carolina was swift to rebuke the president’s suggestion, which the president further explained in posts on Twitter and Facebook on Thursday. He wrote on Twitter, "...go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted). If it has, you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE. ..." Both social media platforms put warning labels on the posts, with Twitter writing that the tweet “violated the Twitter rules about civic and election integrity.”
On Friday, Trump again told North Carolina voters during a virtual rally that they should vote by mail and then perhaps vote again in person if their vote hasn’t been counted yet. "If it has not been counted, vote—which is every citizen's right to do—you go and vote. You press the lever and vote. So if it hasn't been counted, if it doesn't show up, go and vote, and then, if your mail-in ballot arrives after you vote, which it shouldn't but possibly it could perhaps, that ballot will not be used or counted in that your vote has already been cast and tabulated, so this way you're guaranteed to have your vote count," Trump said.
Following the president’s suggestion that voters check on their mail ballot by showing up at the polls on Nov. 3, North Carolina officials asked voters not to do that, both to reduce confusion and the risk of spreading coronavirus. They instead pointed people to the state’s ballot tracking system, where voters can see the status of their ballot after it has been mailed in.
In addition to North Carolina, 38 other states and Washington, D.C. also have virtual ballot tracking systems that election administrators are encouraging voters to use if they’re concerned that their ballot hasn’t been counted.
Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that an election conducted largely by mail will involve widespread election fraud, something that has been a source of frustration for state election officials who insist that fraud is exceedingly rare and that their systems are equipped to handle any instances should they arise.
Jocelyn Benson, the secretary of state in Michigan, released a statement last week saying that the state’s election system “has been stress-tested by three successful elections already this year” and that the state “has protections in place to ensure election officials track and verify every ballot they send and receive, and in every instance we ensure that each person gets only one vote.”
The state attorneys general signed on to the joint statement released Monday concluded their remarks with a direct message to the electorate. “To voters: we want each of you to vote and to know that state attorneys general are here to ensure your vote is counted, your voice is heard, and our elections have integrity,” the group said.
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.