President Trump made some worrisome comments today that seemed to encourage double voting in the state of North Carolina.
You can watch the short interview here. Here’s the transcript (my emphasis):
(Q) 600,000 people could vote by absentee in this state. Are you confident in that system?
“They will vote and then 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. So let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote (at the poll). If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.
“I don’t like the idea of these unsolicited votes. I never did. It leads to a lot of problems. They’ve got 11 problems already on very small contests. I’m not happy about it. At the same time, we’re in court with a lot of it. We’re going to see if it can be stopped.
“But send you ballots, send them in strong whether it’s solicited or unsolicited. The absentees are fine. But go to vote and if they haven’t counted it, you can vote. That’s the way I view it.”
Under North Carolina law, it is illegal: “For any person with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time, or to induce another to do so, in the same primary or election, or to vote illegally at any primary or election.”
Was Trump by his comments “induc[ing]” “with intent to commit fraud” a person to “vote” “more than one time” “in the same …. election”? I think a case could be made that he did. He was encouraging people to vote both by mail and in person. The questionable part is about his intent. It sounds like he was suggesting an attempt at double voting as a means of testing the integrity of the system, or assuring that his voters can cast at least one ballot for him. Is that a fraudulent intent? I could see how a jury could find it to be so especially given Trump’s other statements suggesting he believes that such double voting would not be caught by election officials.
Another possible defense is that Trump was “joking” or not being serious about his comments, and this was typical Trumpian hyperbole. Perhaps so, but I think many people may hear his comments and think he is serious. At the very least, this is now going to create a headache for election administrators in North Carolina (and potentially elsewhere) to admonish voters not to try to do this and muck up the system.
Federal law also makes it a crime for a person to vote more than once in a federal election.
I don’t expect Trump to be prosecuted for this statement but it is a terrible thing to encourage voter fraud—especially by someone who consistently makes claims that it is rampant in the U.S. (it’s not).
Update: Here’s video of AG Barr pretending he doesn’t know that double voting is illegal.