WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — President Trump is threatening to withhold federal funding from states that are expanding mail-in and absentee voting.
Trump is specifically threatening to withhold funds from Nevada and Michigan over the issue.
“We don’t want them to do mail-in ballots,” Trump said.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley said the president doesn’t hold that power.
“We don’t see any legal avenue that the president can simply withhold funds from states on his own political whim,” Merkley said.
Trump has diverted funds approved by Congress in the past for things like the border wall.
“I don’t think the president would successfully argue that somehow there’s an emergency that enables a president to prevent people from voting,” Merkley said.
Most states allow some form of mail-in or absentee voting and five Western states make it available to all voters.
Concerns about safety during the coronavirus pandemic are pushing conservative states in the South, as well as liberal states like California, to expand vote-by-mail this fall.
“People should not have to choose between voting and preserving their good health,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“If there’s a reason—but if there’s not, we don’t want to take any chances with fraud,” Trump said.
Merkley said voter fraud isn’t a wide-spread concern.
“It is more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a case of fraudulent voting in states like Oregon,” he said.
A 2012 study by the University of Arizona found fewer than 500 cases of absentee voter fraud over a 12-year period.