In a social media post Wednesday, President Trump threatened to withhold federal funding to Michigan for what he described as a “rogue Secretary of State” “illegally” sending absentee ballots to 7.7 million people — a claim prompted by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s announcement of a plan to send absentee ballot applications to qualified Michigan voters.
“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” the president 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!” Trump followed up the post by tagging Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and the U.S. Treasury Department.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
While Trump accused Benson of “send[ing] absentee ballots” to millions of residents, the Democratic Secretary of State’s plan is to first send the 7.7 million qualified voters applications for the ballots.
Benson quickly responded to Trump’s tweet by highlighting the distinction between sending out ballots and ballot applications.
“Hi! I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson,” she tweeted in response. “And we sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.”
Hi! 👋🏼 I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson. And we sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia. https://t.co/kBsu4nHvOy
— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) May 20, 2020
But people on Trump’s side, including Republican strategist and adviser to Donald Trump Jr. Andrew Surabian, argue that Trump is right that Benson has acted “illegally.”
To the people attacking @realDonaldTrump for his tweet on absentee ballot applications in Michigan:
According to the law, he's 100% right 👇👇👇 https://t.co/fbvmjTBF5Z
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) May 20, 2020
“Benson announced Tuesday that she will mail all of Michigan’s 7.7 million voters an absentee voter application, an effort first employed in the May 5 election to curb in-person voting amid the coronavirus,” The Detroit News explains. “Benson said earlier this month she was focused on educating voters on their right to vote absentee for no reason, a move approved by voters in 2018.”
Sending out the ballot applications to everyone, Benson said Tuesday, is part of her “responsibility to provide all voters equal access.”