News and Commentary

AG Barr: ‘Obvious’ Potential For Fraud In Expanded Absentee Voting
President Donald Trump with Attorney General William Barr, make remarks before signsing an executive order in the Oval Office that will punish Facebook, Google and Twitter for the way they police content online, Thursday, May 28, 2020. ( Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Doug Mills/The New York Times via Getty Images

Attorney General William Barr backed up concerns of President Trump that a wide-spread use of mail-in ballots could result in rampant voter fraud.

Barr said the threat of fraud in expanding exemptions for voting at polling stations is “obvious” in a Thursday interview with NPR.

“I think there’s a range of concerns about mail-in ballots. And let me just clarify here. I’m not talking about a mail-in ballot for a limited number of cases where somebody, you know, is going to be traveling around the world, and the way that the state has provided for that is, you mail in your ballot,” Barr told NPR’s Steve Inskeep, according to a transcript of the interview.

“I’m talking about a comprehensive rule where all the ballots are essentially mail-in, and there’s so many occasions for fraud there that cannot be policed. I think it would be very bad. But one of the things I mentioned was the possibility of counterfeiting,” Barr said.

Inskeep asked Barr if he had any evidence that significantly expanding access to absentee ballots would result in fraud, to which the attorney general responded, “No, it’s obvious.”

Democrats and media outlets have dismissed the presidents concerns of fraud in an expanded absentee voting system. Lawmakers supporting the measure have said that Americans must be given the option to vote by mail because of the ongoing pandemic.

Several states’ experience with primary elections amid the pandemic suggest that expanded absentee voting could result in many lost votes. During Wisconsin’s primary on April 7, election officials and mail workers lost thousands of ballots that were never sent out to those that requested them. Other ballots were sent back but never received at party headquarters. The problems repeated across eight states and Washington, D.C. during primary elections on June 2.

Notably, general election security is overseen by federal officials whereas primary elections are usually guarded by local and party officials.

Barr expressed doubt that the federal government could guarantee election security in a massively expanded absentee system. He pointed to the ever-present threat of counterfeit currency and the rigorous safeguards put in place to prevent it. Mail-in ballots are nowhere near as difficult to duplicate. He also said that “something like 20 percent” of checks sent under emergency legislation amid the pandemic were misdirected in the mail.

“I know things can happen like that. Because I know people move, a very high percentage in the United States, people move all the time. And I also know that you can easily take things out of mailboxes,” Barr said.

The attorney general also said that foreign governments would try to take advantage of mail-in voting to influence US elections.

“I have specific reason to believe that there are a number of foreign countries that do want to sow discord in the United States by undermining confidence in the results of the election. And I think if we do adopt programs of mail-in, that will be an area which they will exploit. And I think you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out,” Barr said.

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