On May 20 2020, United States President Donald Trump attempted to smear the Michigan secretary of state’s office in a tweet regurgitating one of his most thoroughly debunked claims.
“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State,” Trump wrote on May 20, 2020. “I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”
The allegation was quickly refuted by Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson.
“We sent applications, not ballots,” she replied. “Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.”
Hi! 👋🏼 I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson. And we sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia. https://t.co/kBsu4nHvOy
— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) May 20, 2020
Not only was Trump lying about Benson’s office sending “absentee ballots,” in reality the “7.7 million people” he referenced represents the total number of registered voters in the state. As the Detroit Free Press reported, receiving an application for an absentee ballot does not automatically mean one will be issued; the application would still need to be filled out and returned to the recipient’s local clerk’s office either physically or via regular or e-mail. If the recipient’s signature on the application matches the one in their existing voter records, they are then issued a ballot.
According to Benson, the move to expand opportunities for casting an absentee ballot followed an uptick in voter turnout via mail on May 5 2020, when fifty local elections were held throughout the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 4,915 residents since March 2020.
“By mailing applications we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Benson said. She also correctly stated that Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia — all states with Republicans holding her position — sent absentee ballot request forms available to their respective electorates.
Trump’s threat to “hold up funding” against the state is his latest swipe at Democratic officials in Michigan, such as Benson and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Earlier in the month the president used his Twitter account to support armed far-right demonstrators demanding that Whitmer ease stay-at-home health measures to limit the spread of the disease. In reality, a much greater majority of Americans has consistently expressed concern that “reopening businesses” would only cause an increase in COVID-19 infections.