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The battle over voting by mail flared up over the last week, thanks in part to some presidential tweets that, as they often do, have generated more heat than light.
On May 20, President Trump tweeted: “Breaking: 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. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path.”
On March 26, he tweeted: “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, Michigan hadn’t sent out 7.7 million ballots — it announced plans to send out 7.7 million absentee-ballot applications. Trump replaced the original tweet with one correcting the error, but it still included the claim that he would “ask to hold up funding” to Michigan for sending out absentee-ballot applications. Ask whom? It wasn’t clear, and he dropped the idea shortly thereafter.
As for the tweet that mail-in ballots would be “substantially fraudulent”? That’s the claim that prompted Twitter to issue its first ever presidential fact-check. It may be unwise for any social-media platform to get into the business of fact-checking politicians, and it was especially odd to single out this tweet, rather than the deranged tweets suggesting MSNBC host Joe Scarborough is a murderer.
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