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Trump rants about fraud. But here’s the secret to keeping voting by mail secure.

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President Donald Trump insists there’s “NO WAY” an election with increased mail-in voting will be legitimate.

But both Democratic and Republican officials overseeing that process say he’s dead wrong and in interviews with NBC News they outlined the steps they take — most importantly, signature verification — to ensure the integrity of the system, which is coming into more widespread use because of the coronavirus.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, oversees the elections in one of the nation’s leading vote-by-mail states.

“I think it’s good when the public questions any form of a voting system, but people should have confidence in it because election administrators are always trying to build in security measures that balance out that access,” she said.

Like other states, Washington requires that voters sign their absentee ballot and that the signature matches the one on file with a voter’s registration. If the signatures don’t match, the voter will be contacted and alerted to the discrepancy.

Election officials receive annual training from the Washington state police on the best practices for signature verification and how to spot differences. The ballots, Wyman said, go through multiple levels of verification — meaning three or more checks from “our more experienced signature verifiers.”

Fraud have been almost nonexistent. She pointed to the 2018 election, where her office detected about 140 instances of fraudulent voting out of roughly 3.2 million ballots cast.

“Is it perfect? No,” Wyman said. “Is that rampant fraud? No, it’s not.”

The subject has garnered increased attention as Trump has repeatedly attacked states for seeking to increase mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. His claims of voter fraud are not backed by the historical record, as officials noted, and Twitter attached a fact-check to the president’s Twitter commentary for the first time, labeling his Tuesday posts as “unsubstantiated” and linking to articles debunking the claims.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” Trump tweeted. “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. “

He added, “This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Speaking later at the White House on Tuesday, Trump doubled down, saying of mail-in ballots, “Nobody has any idea whether they’re crooked or not.”

“We can’t do that,” the president said of expanded mail-in voting. “Absentee is okay: You’re sick. You’re away. As an example, I have to do an absentee because I’m voting in Florida, and I happen to be president. I live in that very beautiful house over there that’s painted white. So that’s okay. And it’s okay for people that are sick and they can’t get up.”

Responding to Trump’s claims, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, pointed to vote by mail’s success across the West Coast and said his state also requires signature verification.

“Voting by mail is secure,” Padilla said. “And unfortunately, not only is the accusation that it isn’t baseless, but frankly, hypocritical. You look at Trump himself. He is a absentee voter. He’s the first one to try to undermine people’s confidence in vote by mail and elections in general. I mean, I think what’s really going on here is they’re setting the stage to call into question results from the November election that they may not like.”

Documented voter fraud cases in the U.S. are few — and nothing close to the level that would constitute a “rampant” fraud, officials said. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has tracked documented cases of fraud for the past 20 years and found more than 1,200 instances, about 200 of which involve misuse of absentee ballots. In that time, about 250 million mail-in votes have been cast.

Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and Homeland Security secretary under former President George W. Bush, told NBC News the legitimacy of mail-in voting has “been pretty well validated by history.”

“My disappointment with the president is that he creates doubts about the legitimacy of the forthcoming election,” said Ridge, who co-chairs VoteSafe, a group of bipartisan election officials and organizations calling for safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic. “The reality is that (Trump is) sowing seeds of doubt in distaste of recorded history. And that’s sad.”

Researchers at UCLA and the University of New Mexico, in conjunction with the Union of Concerned Scientists, concluded that voter fraud is “not widespread” and that mail-in ballot fraud is “very rare.”

Many states have taken steps to try and boost mail in voting amid the coronavirus outbreak as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines “encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction.” Congressional Democrats have pushed for additional funding for mail-in voting and have called for the practice to be put into use nationally.

In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, has pushed to make mail-in voting easier and said his state’s security measures ensure the integrity of such voting.

Republicans have sued over increased mail-in efforts elsewhere, including in California and Texas. Conservatives have pointed to past commentary from Democrats such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who questioned the legitimacy of mail-in voting in 2004, and they have cited a 2005 report authored by a commission chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker saying that absentee ballots “remain the largest source of” possible fraud. This month, Carter embraced vote-by-mail, calling for its expanded use amid the pandemic.

On Tuesday, West Virginia officials announced criminal charges against a mail carrier who they alleged “fraudulently altered eight absentee ballot requests” and “fraudulently changed the party affiliation on five from Democrat to Republican.”

Pointing to his state’s safeguards, which also include signature verification, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, told NBC News his state “has a very sparse history of voter fraud.”

“To the extent we’ve had any experience with that, it’s been maybe a half a dozen cases,” he said. “Interestingly, it’s been from the Republican side of the aisle, not the Democratic side of the aisle. And some of those cases involved individuals who were literally intently trying to test the system to see if they could get away with it. They were caught. And so it shows that there’s an efficacy in our system that protects against voter fraud.”

As to what’s behind Trump’s tweets, several of those who spoke with NBC News said it seems as if the president is concerned about how he will fare in November.

“What’s to worry?” Ridge said. “He’s got five months to win.”



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Twitter fact checks Trump’s tweets for the first time, calls mail-in voting claim ‘misleading’

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Twitter slapped a fact check label on a pair of “misleading” tweets by President Donald Trump on Tuesday in which he railed against mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” Trump tweeted.

“That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Experts who study the issue have found no evidence that voter fraud is a widespread problem in the United States.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

It appears to be the first time that the social media giant has fact checked Trump or otherwise enforced its terms regarding his tweets. Many of his critics have long called on Twitter to hold the president accountable for violating its terms of service.

The platform added language to the president’s tweets that reads “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” and directs users to a Twitter article titled “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud,” along with a “What you need to know” section, as well as aggregated tweets about Trump’s unfounded claims.

A Twitter spokesperson told NBC News on Tuesday that the tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The spokesperson added that the company rolled out a policy this month to combat misinformation, particularly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump lashed out at Twitter on Tuesday, saying the company is restricting free speech.

“.@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” he wrote in one tweet.

“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said in another.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, called Twitter biased in a statement Tuesday.

“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” he said. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”

He added, “There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive Democratic rival in November, urged the company to flag statements from every user, including Trump, when they are untrue.

“I think they should say when things are patently not true,” Biden said Tuesday in an appearance on CNN when asked about Trump’s recently sharing conspiracy theories on the site. “They should say so.”

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states holding primaries have had to consider how to balance elections with public health. The pandemic has driven lawmakers to act, such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued an order that requires election officials in each of the state’s 58 counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

However, the move has prompted legal challenges.

The Republican National Committee and other GOP groups, such as the California Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee, sued Newsom on Sunday. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel called Newsom’s executive order “radical” and a “recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud.”

A similar challenge also cropped up in Texas, but a federal judge there ruled in favor of the Democratic Party’s expanding mail-in voting. The case is being appealed by state Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed.



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Trump’s encouragement of racism against Asian Americans is an affront to all Americans

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A boy landed in the hospital after being beaten up by his classmates on school grounds. A little girl was pushed off her bike in the middle of a park. A nurse was assaulted on the subway, and another was spit on while delivering medicine to a sick patient. A father was hit over the head by a man swearing at him on the street.

In the past several months, countless Asian Americans have been punched and kicked and threatened, told that they’ll be sorry if they don’t leave this country — their country. They’ve been blamed for COVID-19: yelled at by strangers in parking lots, refused service at stores and needlessly, cruelly scapegoated by the most powerful man on the planet, President Donald Trump, who has racialized the pandemic and stoked xenophobia every time he’s uttered the term “Chinese virus.”

In a nation founded on the principle that we’re all created equal, such bigotry is downright un-American.

Deflecting blame for his own failure to heed the warnings of experts to prepare for this crisis, Trump has stood in the White House briefing room day after day and pulled from the same cynical playbook he’s relied on so many times before, stoking grievances and using the same politics of division that helped him get elected in the first place, this time by casting Asian Americans as the “other.” As if they are a deviation from those who are “actually” American. As if they don’t truly belong.

The comments Trump has made have ranged from the dangerous to the absurd. But the sentiment behind them has been clear.

So let us be even clearer.

The American story as we know it would not exist without the strength of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In a literal sense, Asian Americans helped build and unite this country — laying the railroad tracks, tilling the fields, starting the businesses and picking up the rifles necessary to develop and defend the nation we love.

No insult, no insinuation — even when it comes from the president in the middle of the Rose Garden telling an Asian American reporter to “ask China” — can change the fact that Asian Americans are just as American as anyone else lucky enough to be a daughter or a on of the United States.

Ironically, May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In the face of such intolerance, this month reminds us that it’s as important as ever to honor the AAPI community’s service to this country — as teachers, doctors, troops, you name it — as well as recognize the consequences of the fear-mongering and outright racism that have been on the rise throughout Trump’s presidency.

Because that’s the kind of prejudice that led to Japanese Americans’ being interned on U.S. soil even as their loved ones fought to defend this nation overseas during World War II. It’s a version of what we’ve seen in debates over everything from segregation to immigration, where those who aren’t white are portrayed as if they’re somehow dirty or dangerous or, now, contaminated — and then cast off as second-class citizens. In a nation founded on the principle that we’re all created equal, such bigotry is downright un-American.

The United States is great because, by and large, Americans look out for one another and are good to one another. We’ve witnessed that time and again, and we’re seeing it now in the midst of this crisis. Landlords are waiving rent for tenants struggling to get by. Medical students not yet allowed to take care of patients in the ICU are instead taking care of health care workers, offering to look after their kids or do chores. Teachers are driving through their students’ neighborhoods to say hello.

Trump has proven he will never get it. He will never understand that the reason the U.S. has led the world for decades is not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Each of those people understands our country better than Trump ever will. They understand that at its best, America is a roughly 3.8 million-square-mile community whose members don’t just want to do well for themselves, but to do good for others. No matter the color of their skin.

Trump has proven he will never get it. He will never understand that the reason the U.S. has led the world for decades is not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. As much as we all wish and hope, it is clear that Trump will never rise to the awesome responsibility that comes with the title President of the United States.

As our neighbors are spit on and beat up because of the color of their skin, it is more obvious than ever how important it is that we make this the last Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Trump in the White House.

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