Trump Spreads Baseless Claims About Foreign Powers Counterfeiting Ballots

President Donald Trump is continuing to push back against the idea of expanding mail-in voting for the upcoming 2020 elections, baselessly arguing that the practice is rife with fraud.

Many voting experts and lawmakers are hoping to expand mail-in (or absentee) voting due to concerns some voters have of voting in-person due to the coronavirus, or the possibility that infection rates could rise again by November and thus deter voter participation.

Trump, however, tweeted on Monday morning that foreign nations could interfere with U.S. elections by producing counterfeit ballots.

“RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS,” the president wrote in all capital letters. “IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”

Trump added onto his baseless allegations later in the morning in a separate tweet.

“Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations [sic] history — unless this stupidity is ended,” Trump wrote. “We voted during World War One & World War Two with no problem, but now they are using Covid in order to cheat by using Mail-Ins!”

What Trump failed to acknowledge in his second tweet is that voting by mail, particularly by the military, was in use during both of the wars he cited. Indeed, mail-in voting has been a practice that’s been in existence in the United States since at least the Civil War.

Trump’s first tweet, alleging that mail-in ballots could be copied by other nations, was likely inspired after an interview this weekend on Fox Business featuring Attorney General William Barr, who made similar claims without providing proof that such fears are warranted in any way.

“Right now, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot,” Barr said in the interview on Sunday.

The attorney general also made similar comments earlier in June. Several election experts had disputed them at that time, explaining that it would be next to impossible to replicate ballots from thousands of different jurisdictions across the U.S.

“Ballots are built unique for each election. Each jurisdiction will normally have dozens to hundreds of unique ballot styles,” Jennifer Morrell, an elections consultant and former elections official in Utah and Colorado, said in an interview with NPR. “Proofs for each ballot style are reviewed and tested to ensure the ballot scanners will read those ballots and only those ballots. Even ballots created on that system from a previous election cannot be read.”

Colorado elections director Judd Choate also said earlier this month that “there is zero chance” a foreign power could interfere in such ways.

“It’s preposterous to the point of humor,” he said to The Washington Post.

Besides replicating exact ballot measurements, paper weight and other standards, those interfering in elections would have to know which jurisdiction each voter they were attempting to impersonate would be voting from. That’s before they even consider ways to forge identity within the mail-in ballot.

Trump has frequently derided absentee voting as a means to address voting concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. In early April, the president claimed “a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,” though he didn’t offer any examples of systemic fraud to back up his words.

The chances of voter fraud through mail-in ballots are incredibly small. A study in Oregon, which votes primarily through the mail, found that since 2000 a total of 0.0000001 percent of mail-in votes were fraudulent. And from 2000 to 2012, according to a separate study, only 491 ballots out of billions cast across the country were cast illegally.

Those rates are smaller than a person’s chance of being struck by lightning.