President Donald Trump and some members of his administration have in recent days pushed the narrative that vote-by-mail has an increased potential for fraudulent activity. On Monday afternoon, Attorney General William Barr added his own take of the situation when he told The New York Times that he was worried about foreign actors counterfeiting mail-in ballots in order to tamper with the upcoming November election.
“We’ve been talking about how, in terms of foreign influence, there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in. And it’d be very hard to sort out what’s happening,” he said.
But as Salon reported on Monday, Barr’s theory is highly unlikely, and critics say that his comments show that he doesn’t understand how mail-in voting works in the United States.
“Bill Barr is a liar. Our nation’s chief law enforcement officer is trying to burn down American democracy to prop up a corrupt impeached executive,” said New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell.
Pascrell stated that he has been calling for Barr to be removed from office and to have his law licenses revoked for the past year because of the Attorney General’s “assaults on American democracy.”
Senior counsel for the Brennan Center of Justice Democracy Program at NYU School of Law, Michael Li, echoed Pascrell’s criticism.
“Bless Bill Barr’s heart — this just couldn’t happen,” he said.
That’s because, as Li explained, signatures between the mail-in ballot and the signature on file are compared before a vote is counted. There are also barcodes on the ballots to prevent mail fraud of the type Barr references.
“It’s hard to see Barr’s comments as something other than laying the groundwork for casting doubt about the election after November,” Li said.
Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida, called Barr’s comments “pure BS.”
He says that every locality has a different ballot, which adds to the challenge of counterfeiting.
Trump suggested last week that children “grab” ballots out of mailboxes. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has claimed that deceased people’s names are used to vote fraudulently and that mail-in ballots are mishandled. Both have voted by mail repeatedly in the past.
However, experts say that voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States and even less common with mail-in voting. An elections expert with the University of California, Irvine said that absentee ballots have been used to commit voting fraud, which is why there should be rules in place to protect the validity of the ballots.