President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning threatened to block federal funding to Michigan over the state's decision to send absentee ballot applications to all 7.7 million registered voters to ensure they can vote in August and November elections without risking the spread of Covid-19.
"Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election," Trump tweeted. "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!"
In a follow-up tweet, Trump tagged the U.S. Treasury Department, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Office of Management and Budget acting director Russ Vought.
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!..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
Critics noted that while withholding funds in such a way would likely be illegal, the president's threat shows the lengths to which he is willing to go to stop an expansion of voting rights and ballot access amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has already killed nearly 5,000 Michiganders. Trump has repeatedly voiced opposition to mail-in voting—for everyone but himself—and warned that expanding it would mean "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."
"Michigan wants to help people vote safely, so they're sending absentee ballot applications to every voter there," tweeted advocacy group Swing Left. "This is legal. Trump just doesn't like it because he doesn't want you to vote."
Sean Eldridge, founder and president of advocacy group Stand Up Amerca, said in a statement that "these attacks on mail-in voting by Donald Trump are not only inaccurate, they are incredibly dangerous."
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"By trafficking in debunked conspiracy theories and lying about the impact of voting by mail, Trump is clearly attempting to undermine our elections and suppress the vote in the middle of a pandemic," said Eldridge. "Americans should not be forced to risk their lives to cast their ballots—and Congress must intervene immediately."
President now blackmailing states to prevent them from holding a fair election in November. https://t.co/yQ2Qba1eFn
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) May 20, 2020
On Tuesday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that all of the state's registered voters will receive absentee ballot applications in the mail ahead of the state's August congressional primaries and the November general election.
"By mailing applications we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote," said Benson.
The Washington Post's Abby Phillips pointed out that Trump's tweet misrepresents Benson's decision.
"The president is wrong here: Michigan is not sending absentee ballots to all voters in the general—just applications," Phillips tweeted. "Other Republicans secretaries of state have done this already for upcoming primaries, but the real concern for Trump here is what happens in November."
This story has been updated to include comment from Stand Up America.