OAKLAND — California Secretary of State Alex Padilla condemned President Donald Trump’s latest tweetstorm threatening to pull federal funding to Nevada and Michigan if they proceed with vote-by-mail drives, calling it Trump’s “clearest example yet of using disinformation to try and influence the November election.”
Padilla, who serves as chairman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, said in an interview Wednesday that Trump’s tweets paint a picture of a president who “has gone full Ukraine on Michigan and Nevada,” by threatening to cut federal funding should the states proceed with mail ballot drives.
“It’s particularly appalling because there’s many blue states that do a good amount of vote-by-mail, like California — as well as many red states, like Utah,” Padilla said. But Wednesday’s tweets suggest Trump is “clearly focused on the battleground states,” and is worried about his polling as the November election approaches, he said.
The comments by Padilla, who oversees elections in the nation’s most populous state, signal that Democratic secretaries of state may be preparing more forceful resistance against Trump’s increasingly aggressive comments — and in some cases, misstatements — suggesting voter fraud as the November election approaches.
Trump mischaracterized Michigan’s mail-in ballot policies on Wednesday when he tweeted: “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!’’
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement Tuesday that the state mailed out applications for the down-ballot August primary and November election — not a ballot directly to all state voters.
The threat from the White House comes as battleground Michigan — a state crucial to Trump’s reelection — faces both a particularly severe coronavirus outbreak and the impacts of widespread flooding Tuesday, which prompted a state emergency and the immediate evacuation of tens of thousands from the Midland area when three dams failed as the result of heavy rains.
The president also Wednesday threatened Nevada, which is sending out mail ballots for its June primary, tweeting: “State of Nevada ‘thinks’ that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t! If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections.”
California earlier this month became the first state during the Covid-19 pandemic to switch to all-mail ballots due to concerns about voter participation and health. Padilla announced earlier this month that the nation’s most populous state would send mail ballots to 20 million voters in California for the November election to provide a safe alternative for those worried about Covid-19. In-person voting centers will also be available in California.
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this month found that nearly three in five U.S. voters said they either strongly or somewhat support a federal law that would mandate that states “provide mail-in ballots to all voters for elections occurring during the coronavirus pandemic.” But support is split along ideological lines. A supermajority of voters who are registered or lean Democratic — 77 percent — backed the idea. Republicans were more divided: 48 percent were opposed and 42 percent in favor.
Padilla said Trump in the past has “clearly targeted California” with repeated false claims of widespread voter fraud — and recently tweeted that the CA-25 House special election was “rigged.” He said those claims were never been proven, “so it’s nothing new” that he would make false claims about other states.
But “whenever there’s a federal proposal to modernize elections, Republicans — starting with [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, are the first to scream from the mountains that states run elections,” Padilla said. “So I’m waiting to see if they have the backbone to stand up to Trump on this one.”