Trump threatens to pull funding from Michigan over plans to mail absentee ballot applications

President Donald Trump attacked Michigan's secretary of state Wednesday morning, threatening to pull federal funding from the state and alleging it was going down a "voter fraud path" for its 2020 election plans.

In a tweet posted Wednesday morning, Trump wrote he would "ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!" after Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced her office would issue absentee ballot applications to all registered voters for the August and November elections this year. 

In his tweet, Trump incorrectly stated that Michigan would send "absentee ballots to 7.7 million people" ahead of election season. 

A spokesman for the state department called the tweet false in a statement issued Wednesday morning. 

"The Bureau of Elections is mailing absent voter applications, not ballots. 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," said Jake Rollow. 

Whitmer also responded during a press conference Wednesday, calling the commentary from the president "disheartening."

"I think at first it shows you there maybe was a lack of understanding of what the secretary of state was doing - she said we're going to mail applications, not mail ballots - and I would appreciate any federal partnership that wants to focus on solving problems and not get into politics," she said. "We got to take politics out of this crisis moment and remember we're all Americans and we're all fighting for our lives here and our economy and we all gotta get this right..."

State Sen. Jeremy Allen Moss (D-Southfield) also pitched his two cents by responding that Michigan Republican Party sent out absentee ballot applications ahead of the Michigan primary held in March.

On Tuesday, the state department said it would be mailing absentee ballot applications to every Michigan resident registered to vote for the 2020 primary and general elections due to the COVID-19 health crisis.

“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” said Benson in a press release Tuesday. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”

While the state department has never mailed absentee ballot applications to every Michigan resident before, it did mail applications to voters in local elections held this May. Concerns over social distancing and possible exposure to the pandemic prompted many residents to vote from home. The result was record-breaking turnout with 25% of eligible voters casting ballots - more than double the average in local elections held over the previous decade.