“Trump, skeptical of mail-in balloting, encourages voting more than once if necessary,” CNN’s headline originally stated. (CNN later ran a correction to its story, changing the headline to “Trump stokes skepticism of Colorado voting system.”) “Donald Trump encourages his supporters to vote twice,” the Huffington Post’s headline read.
But that’s not really what Trump said. Here are Trump’s remarks on Sunday at Greeley, Colorado:
Who has sent their ballots in? Now do you think those ballots are properly counted? … You can go to university center, and they’ll give you a ballot, a new ballot. They’ll void your old ballot. They’ll give you a new ballot. And you can go out and make sure it gets in. Now in some places, they probably do that four or five times, but we don’t do that. But that’s great. So by tomorrow, hopefully almost everybody will have their ballots in.
Much of the initial media attention characterized these remarks as Trump telling his supporters to vote twice. But Trump doesn’t want people to vote multiple times — he even said that “we don’t do that.” He instead questioned whether people’s mail-in ballots are being counted, and advised people on how they can get new ballots.
This comes down to a relatively unique aspect of Colorado’s voting system: It’s one of three states that does almost all of it is voting by mail. As part of that, the state sends voters ballots by mail, which voters then send back after filling them out. But if Coloradans lose or never receive their mail-in ballots or just want to get a new ballot before they mail their old one in, they can void their old ballots — the ones that they got by mail — and get a new ballot at a local election office that they can then file by mail or in person.
Trump, however, is stewing doubt about whether the mail-in system works. He doesn’t trust that people’s ballots are being counted. So he encouraged his supporters to obtain and file a new ballot, perhaps in person, instead.
Even if it’s not directly encouraging voter fraud, it’s still bad: Trump is once again, without any evidence whatsoever, questioning the integrity of the election system. There is no reason to believe people’s ballots aren’t being counted in Colorado, but Trump suggested that’s what’s happening anyway. And this isn’t the first time Trump has done this: He has repeatedly said that the election is “rigged” against him, even though there’s no proof to back up his claim.
Still, Trump’s comments, like many of his remarks, are jumbled and vague. So it’s possible that some people in the crowd may have misunderstood what he said as encouragement to vote again after they mailed in a ballot. That could potentially constitute as and lead to voter fraud. (The secretary of state’s office told me that in the event someone sends in two or more ballots, only the first one that the local election office receives will be counted — and multiple votes could, depending on the circumstances, lead to a voter fraud investigation.)
More broadly, Trump’s continued remarks about the “rigged election” seem more likely to drive people to commit election crimes. In Iowa, one Trump supporter was arrested last week after she voted twice, arguing that “the polls are rigged.” And some Trump supporters have said that they will intimidate voters — particularly people of color — at the polls on Election Day.
With Trump complaining so much about the election being rigged due to voter fraud, all of that would be amount to a tragic, if ironic, outcome.