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What’s behind President Trump telling North Carolina voters to vote twice?

Voting twice is illegal. President Donald Trump recently floated the idea.

President Donald Trump talks to the crowd at the Wilmington International Airport in Wilmington, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.
President Donald Trump talks to the crowd at the Wilmington International Airport in Wilmington, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.
Matt Born, Associated Press

President Donald Trump — who has often criticized mail-in voting — told supporters in North Carolina that they should try to vote twice during the upcoming 2020 election to make sure their vote is tabulated. But it remains unclear if that’s truly what he meant.

Trump, who spoke before supporters in Wilmington, North Carolina, and later to reporters, said that people should be wary of voting by mail. So they should vote by mail and then do the same in person.

“If you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in, and then go — make sure it counted. And if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. You just vote. And then if they tabulate it very late, which they shouldn’t be doing, they’ll see you voted, and so it won’t count. So, send it in early, and then go and vote. And if it’s not tabulated — you vote. And the vote is going to count,” Trump said.

The problem is that voting twice is illegal in North Carolina. The law states it is a felony “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.” Voting twice is also a felony under federal law.

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, issued a statement Thursday morning that said it would be considered a felony, according to NPR.

“The State Board has a dedicated investigations team that investigates allegations of double voting, which are referred to prosecutors when warranted,” Bell said.

But let’s take a second to consider his words.

White House spokesman Judd Deere released a statement that said Trump wasn’t urging people to vote twice.

“No one has fought harder for an election system that is fair and free from fraud and abuse than President Trump. This idea that he is encouraging people to vote twice is yet another example of the media taking him out of context,” Deere said.

And White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said Trump is not asking anyone to break the law. “The president is not suggesting anyone do anything unlawful.”

Indeed, in breaking down his statement, Trump said you vote on the ballot, you send it in and then you go to the polls to make sure it counted and you’re removed from any voting lists. If you’re still on a voting list, then you’d vote.

He clarified his advice to voters on Thursday:

“Based on the massive number of Unsolicited & Solicited Ballots that will be sent to potential Voters for the upcoming 2020 Election, & in order for you to MAKE SURE YOUR VOTE COUNTS & IS COUNTED, SIGN & MAIL IN your Ballot as EARLY as possible. On Election Day, or Early Voting,..

“.....go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted). If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do). If your Mail In Ballot arrives....

....after you Vote, which it should not, that Ballot will not be used or counted in that your vote has already been cast & tabulated. YOU ARE NOW ASSURED THAT YOUR PRECIOUS VOTE HAS BEEN COUNTED, it hasn’t been “lost, thrown out, or in any way destroyed”. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!”

Trump pushed the idea further in an interview with WCET Television, talking about his lack of confidence in absentee voting, too.

“They’ll go out and they’ll vote and they’re going to have to go and 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,” he said. “So, let them send it in and let them go vote and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated they’ll be able to vote so that’s the way it is.”

Still, Bell, with the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said voters shouldn’t follow the president’s direction to visit polling locations to make sure their vote counted, according to NPR.

“The State Board office strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted,” she said. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19.”

Concern over voting by mail has risen over the past few months, mostly due to comments from Trump, who has been claiming the practice can lead to voter fraud and the Postal ervice couldn’t handle the added volume of mail. But fraud is rare, if voting by mail is done correctly.

Those in Utah have only seen success with voting by mail, as the Deseret News reported.

“We lead the nation in this,” Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner said.

She added, ”Anytime you undermine people’s confidence in election results without fact-based data, you’re actually undermining the integrity of our elections,” Gardner said.

This year does include its own share of issues — the coronavirus pandemic being the main one. But Utah has been preparing to make sure voting stays safe and that local officials are ready to handle vote by mail.

“We’ve been talking with local post office officials and county clerks, and we’re confident we’ll be able to handle the volume,” Utah Elections Director Justin Lee told the Deseret News. “That’s because we’ve done it before.”