President Trump slammed Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Wednesday, calling her a “rouge” official and threatening to withhold federal funding.
Trump originally tweeted that Michigan was planning to send absentee ballots to all of its residents, adding that “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,” according to Politico.
He also tagged his chief of staff Mark Meadows, the U.S. Treasury and Russ Vought, director of the federal Office of Management and Budget in a reply to his tweet, according to The Detroit News.
Michigan is actually planning to send absentee ballot applications, rather than the ballots themselves, as a way to encourage voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” said Benson in a Tuesday statement announcing the mailings. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”
Trump later deleted his tweet, replacing it with one that read “absentee ballot applications.”
Michigan sends absentee ballot applications 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
Benson responded to the original tweet, saying that she was following the example of officials in other states.
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
A spokesman for Benson clarified the department’s mailings.
“President Donald Trump’s statement is false. The Bureau of Elections is mailing absent voter applications, not ballots,” said Jake Rollow, a spokesman for the Michigan Secretary of State. “Applications are mailed nearly every election cycle by both major parties and countless advocacy and nonpartisan organizations. Just like them, we have full authority to mail applications to ensure voters know they have the right to vote safely by mail.”
There are roughly 7.7 million register voters in Michigan, according to the department, with 1.3 million on the permanent absent voter list.
One Republican state senator questioned the application mailings.
“I assume [the funding for the mailings] will be from coronavirus funds the state received. That money should be going to get personal protective equipment for health care workers and more tests for our state, not to do a big mailing promoting the secretary of state for something that usually comes from local clerks,” said Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-14-Holly) in a statement on Tuesday. “It seems political to me.”
“Local clerks are the ones who have always handled these requests, not the secretary of state. Like Gov. Whitmer, Secretary Benson seems to be taking unilateral actions with no input and questionable motives — and that is very troubling,” Johnson said.
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]