Trump’s Call to Vote by Mail and In Person Raises Fears of Double Voting

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Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in Wisconsin on Thursday, where he is making a rare visit beyond the Mid-Atlantic region that will give him a high-profile platform to address racial injustice and continue to press his message that President Trump has been fanning the flames of violence.

Mr. Biden has largely remained close to his Delaware home since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the United States, and the trip to Kenosha is a significant moment for him.

Republicans spent their convention last week painting a picture of a Democratic Party that condones street violence and is eager to slash funding from the police, distorting Mr. Biden’s stance on police funding in the process. Mr. Biden repudiated that characterization in a speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, declaring: “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting.”

He will have another opportunity to convey that message in Kenosha, which is still reeling after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, and subsequent protests with sporadic outbreaks of violence and looting. Unlike Mr. Trump, who did not meet with members of the Blake family when he visited Kenosha earlier this week, Mr. Biden met privately with several of Mr. Blake’s closest relatives for an hour as soon as he arrived in Milwaukee, according to a pool report.

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Mr. Biden has sought to demonstrate his commitment to confronting racial injustice in policing and other aspects of society. His campaign released a new ad on Thursday that shows Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, speaking in direct terms about police violence and racial justice.

Also on Thursday, Mr. Trump is headed to Latrobe, Pa., east of Pittsburgh, where he will rally supporters in a pivotal state and trumpet a federal grant for the city’s airport.

The dueling events illustrate the growing pressure each candidate is facing from his own party. Democrats are eager for Mr. Biden to start appearing in battleground states, particularly in Midwestern states like Wisconsin where Hillary Clinton assumed victory but fell short.

Republicans, meanwhile, are growing nervous about polls that continue to show Mr. Trump trailing in a number of the states he claimed in 2016 and believe he must keep Pennsylvania in his column to win.

A survey released from Fox News on Wednesday showed Mr. Biden with an eight-percentage-point lead in Wisconsin, but a Monmouth University survey of Pennsylvania voters suggested Mr. Trump was narrowing Mr. Biden’s advantage there.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump on Thursday expanded on his suggestion that people in North Carolina stress-test the security of their elections systems by trying to vote twice in the same election, a move state election officials have explicitly called out as a felony.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Mr. Trump sought to clarify his call for voters to both send in an absentee ballot and vote in person, arguing that by doing so, voters would provide a check against the mail voting system he has assailed and ensure that their vote was being tallied.

“In order for you to MAKE SURE YOUR VOTE COUNTS & IS COUNTED, SIGN & MAIL IN your Ballot as EARLY as possible,” he wrote on Twitter. “On Election Day, or Early Voting, go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted). If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do).”

Twitter added a warning label to his tweets, saying that they violated the company’s terms of service and its policies around election integrity but that the company would leave them up because it was “in the public interest” to do so.

Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, told The Times in an interview on Wednesday that officials would “strongly discourage voters from going to the polls on Election Day to find out whether their absentee ballot has been counted, especially since they can determine that at home.”

“There will be social distancing in place on Election Day,” he said. “We want to make sure the process flows smoothly.” He also noted that the state’s voting system would prevent a person from voting twice, because only the first vote recorded would be counted.

Karen Brinson, the executive director of the state board of elections, reiterated in a statement on Thursday that there were “numerous checks in place” to prevent “double voting” in North Carolina, and made plain: “It is illegal to vote twice in an election.”

Mr. Trump made his initial comment in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

“Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” the president said. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.”

Reyna Walters-Morgan, the director of voter protection and civic engagement for the Democratic National Committee, said Thursday that Mr. Trump had “encouraged his supporters to commit voter fraud” and stressed that “voting by mail is a safe and secure way for Americans to participate in our democracy.”

As the number of people planning to mail in their ballots has increased, Mr. Trump has repeatedly made false claims about widespread fraud in mail voting. His latest suggestion, that voters commit that same sort of fraud he has denounced, is one he has discussed privately with aides in recent weeks amid concerns he is depressing turnout among his base by raising alarms about the security of the process.

The day after President Trump suggested that North Carolina voters attempt to vote twice to test if “their system’s as good as they say it is,” Facebook said it would take down posts if users supportively shared video of the president’s comments, or reposted them without proper context.

Voting twice is illegal across the country and is a felony in North Carolina.

Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said that any shared video that showed only Mr. Trump’s comments “violates our policies prohibiting voter fraud and we will remove it unless it is shared to correct the record.”

Facebook said it would leave the initial video and news reports up to allow people to correct the record, and would allow further shares of the video if users shared correct information. As of Thursday morning, the company had not identified or taken down any videos of the president’s comments.

The move came as the president seemed to attempt to clean up his comments in a Twitter thread Thursday morning, telling supporters to mail back their ballot as soon as possible, and then go to the polling place on Election Day to check if it was recorded.

He later posted those same comments to Facebook, which slapped a warning label under Mr. Trump’s post: “Voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the US and the same is predicted this year.” The label linked to Facebook’s voting hub, which includes fact checks on voting information and more information on voting, including by mail.

Facebook has been putting warning labels under posts from Mr. Trump that have carried dubious claims and falsehoods about voting, but until Thursday the labels had largely just been generic warnings to “get the facts” with links back to the voting hub. The direct language on the label to Mr. Trump’s claim was another new step for the platform.

Separately, Twitter added a warning label to the president’s tweets on voting, saying that they violated Twitter’s terms of service and its policies around election integrity, but said that they would remain up because it was “in the public interest” to do so.

“As a result of the application of the notice, engagements with these tweets will be limited and their visibility will be reduced across the service,” a Twitter spokesperson said, adding that people would be able to retweet them with comments — but not like, reply, or simply retweet them.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Gerald Holmes, a forklift operator from Kenosha, Wis., was so passionate about the election four years ago that he drove people to the polls. But this year, Mr. Holmes says he is not even planning to vote himself.

The outcome in 2016, when Wisconsin helped seal President Trump’s victory despite his losing the popular vote and amid reports of Russian interference, left Mr. Holmes, 54, deeply discouraged.

“What good is it to go out there and do it?” he said. “It isn’t going to make any difference.”

As protests have unfolded across the country over the death of George Floyd and the police’s treatment of Black people, activists and Democratic leaders have pleaded with demonstrators to turn their energy toward elections in November.

A block party on Tuesday honoring Jacob Blake, the Black resident of Kenosha who was paralyzed after being shot by a white police officer, included voter registration booths near where the shooting occurred. Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to visit Kenosha on Thursday, two days after Mr. Trump appeared in the city in the wake of unrest over the shooting.

But people like Mr. Holmes reflect the challenges Democrats face as they try to channel anger over police violence into votes.

In interviews with more than a dozen Black residents of the Kenosha area, many said they were outraged over the shooting of Mr. Blake, but some said they had grown dispirited and cynical and that shooting showed that decades of promises from politicians have done little.

“Let’s say I did go out and vote and I voted for Biden,” said Michael Lindsey, a friend of Mr. Blake’s who protested after the shooting. “That’s not going to change police brutality. It’s not going to change the way the police treat African-Americans compared to Caucasians.”

During the block party near where Mr. Blake was shot, James Hall, the interim president of the Urban League of Racine and Kenosha, tried to get a young woman and man to register to vote.

“Does my vote really matter?” the woman asked, then answered herself, “I know my voice doesn’t count.”

“The people feel disengaged,” said Corey Prince, the Wisconsin director for the Outreach Team, a political consulting firm. “They feel disenfranchised.”

Many people who live on a narrow side street next to the church in Kenosha, Wis., where Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to speak on Thursday were taking in the scene from porches or lawns, surveying the swarm of reporters and Secret Service agents who had flooded their neighborhood.

Calvin Cooks, 49, who has lived in Kenosha for about 35 years, said he understood the anger over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, but that he was also disturbed by the destructive nature of some of the protests that followed.

Mr. Cooks, who is Black and who worked as a landscaper until he injured his back, said he supported Mr. Biden and appreciated how the former vice president spoke on policing and issues of race. Mr. Cooks said he believed some of the police officers in Kenosha were prejudiced against Black people, and he was disturbed by how police cars sped past the white 17-year-old who was seen on video walking away with his hands up after shooting several protesters and who has been charged with homicide in the deaths of two of them.

Mr. Cooks said he himself was sprayed with Mace several weeks ago by a police officer as he tried to pull his family away from a crime scene where two people had been shot, and where a crowd of onlookers grew angry with the police.

Still, he said, he thought that the police officer who shot Mr. Blake may have been legitimately been worried that Mr. Blake was reaching for a weapon.

“I’d never say it was cool or good he shot him, but that man was thinking about his life,” Mr. Cooks said of the officer.

Mr. Cooks said every police officer should be wearing body cameras, an effort that has gained momentum among city officials since Mr. Blake was shot.

A few houses down, April Valdez was hanging a large Trump 2020 banner on her porch after taking it inside on a windy day.

Ms. Valdez, who is white and has lived in Kenosha since 2002, said the demonstrations grew so destructive last month that she and her husband briefly sent their three young children out of the area, fearing they would be hurt. She was frustrated that the National Guard had not immediately been sent in.

“The fires, I think, could have been prevented,” she said. “Change-wise, I unfortunately think anything Democratic-handled at this point is going to put us further into destruction.”

Ms. Valdez said she supported the effort to have body cameras on every officer and wasn’t sure whether the shooting of Mr. Blake was justified or not. She said she would probably end up agreeing with whatever conclusion the Department of Justice ultimately reaches, given that its investigators have access to more information than the public.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

For decades, President Trump has sought undermine opposition by sowing distrust and relying on conspiracy theories, leaving people uncertain about what to believe.

In the last week alone, Mr. Trump has reposted messages asserting that the real death toll from the coronavirus was only around 9,000 and not 185,000, talked cryptically about a planeload of “thugs” in black uniforms flying to Washington to disrupt the Republican National Convention and asserted without a shred of evidence that his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was “on some kind of an enhancement” drug.

People who have known the president for years say one of his most sustained assaults, on the integrity of the 2020 election, is straight from tactics he used as a businessman in New York.

The president has said with no evidence that “millions and millions of ballots” have been sent to dead people and dogs and cats. He has floated the possibility of postponing the election because of the coronavirus pandemic — an idea swiftly shot down by his own party. And at the opening of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., he asserted that mail-in voting “is going to be one of the greatest scams,” pushing a false argument about fraud.

Mr. Trump’s critics point out that as president he has never had more power to shape public opinion and bend outcomes to his will. Early indications suggest he has created significant doubt about the 2020 election: According to a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, about 45 percent of voters do not believe that the election results can be counted accurately — a jump from 36 percent ahead of the 2016 election.

Asked about Mr. Trump’s behavior over decades, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, did not respond directly. “The American people know they never have to wonder what the president is thinking or how he feels about a particular topic, which is one of the many reasons why they chose to elect him over the same old recycled politicians who just use the poll-tested talking points,’’ Mr. Deere said.

Credit…Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

Richard Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., on Thursday morning accused President Trump of breaking his promises to bring more manufacturing and infrastructure jobs to working Americans.

They were some of Mr. Trumka’s strongest comments to date — and a recognition that even labor leaders who were willing to give Mr. Trump a chance four years ago are no longer open to finding common ground.

“The jobs he said were coming never came,” Mr. Trumka said during a virtual breakfast with reporters, hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “Instead of rebuilding America, he’s torn it apart.”

Mr. Trumka’s denunciation of the administration’s policies affecting working Americans came a week after the president promised to turn America into the “manufacturing superpower of the world.” The Trump campaign still needs the support of white, working-class voters in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in order to win.

In his nomination acceptance speech last week at the Republican National Convention, Mr. Trump said that he would “cut taxes even further for hardworking moms and dads.” But on Thursday, Mr. Trumka blamed the president for a tax cut that benefited the rich and “accelerated the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs and worsened inequality.”

Mr. Trumka, a union leader who at the beginning of the Trump presidency was criticized by some for being open to an alliance with Mr. Trump, has since become an outspoken critic of the president. And in May, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. endorsed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Four years into the Trump presidency, Mr. Trumka said, “We’ve learned that working people cannot afford Donald Trump. We’ve learned that workers might not be able to survive another four years with Donald Trump. ”

He added: “After months of pandemic politics and generations of systemic racism, Trump is pouring gasoline on the fire. It is a transparent, ugly, last-ditch effort to scare some people into voting for him and scare others away from voting at all.”

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are running neck-and-neck in North Carolina, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Thursday.

Mr. Biden had 47 percent support among registered voters, while 45 percent backed Mr. Trump. That two-percentage-point difference was within the poll’s margin of error, which is 4.9 percentage points.

Some of the starkest divides fell along lines of race, education level and gender. Women broke for Mr. Biden by 15 percentage points, while men went for Mr. Trump by 13 points.

Among voters under 50, who favored Mr. Biden by a razor-thin three-point margin, fully 13 percent said they were undecided or planned to vote for a third-party candidate, considerably higher than for other age groups. Third-party preference tends to drop significantly as Election Day draws nearer, suggesting that young voters could make the difference if they break one way or the other.

The Monmouth results largely echoed those of a Fox News survey released on Wednesday, which found Mr. Biden with a four-point edge in North Carolina (also within that poll’s margin of error). Quality polls of North Carolina earlier this summer have tended to show Mr. Biden with the advantage, sometimes by as much as nine points.

The state’s closely watched Senate race is equally tight, according to the Monmouth poll, with the Republican incumbent Thom Tillis backed by 45 percent of registered voters and his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, at 46 percent. Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor, received positive marks for his response to the coronavirus from 65 percent of North Carolina voters. He is ahead of his Republican opponent, Dan Forest, by 11 points.

With a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled state legislature, North Carolina, which Mr. Trump won by more than 3 percentage points in 2016, is the kind of swing state that many voting rights advocates are fretting over this year. Its plans to allow all voters to request mail-in ballots have already been the subject of political wrangling and lawsuits.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump said that voters in North Carolina should consider voting twice — once by mail and again in person — to stress-test the state’s election system, even though that would constitute the kind of felony voter fraud he has often railed against.

In the Monmouth poll, just over one in four voters said they were at least somewhat likely to vote by mail this fall. Researchers simulated two turnout scenarios — one with high engagement and one with low turnout — and in both cases Mr. Biden maintained his two-point edge.

Unlike other recent polls of swing states and the nation at large, this survey found that Mr. Trump’s net favorability rating in North Carolina is slightly better than Mr. Biden’s. Forty-three percent saw Mr. Biden favorably, and 48 percent unfavorably. For Mr. Trump it was an even split at 46 percent each.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Facebook moved on Thursday to clamp down on confusion about the November election on its service, rolling out a series of changes to limit voter misinformation and prevent interference from President Trump and other politicians.

The social network said it would ban any new political ads on its site in the week before Election Day. It said it would also strengthen measures against posts that try to dissuade people from voting. Postelection, Facebook said it would quash any candidates’ attempts at claiming false victories by redirecting users to accurate information on the results.

Facebook has become a key battleground for Mr. Trump’s and Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaigns. The Trump campaign has run ads on the social network featuring false corruption accusations about Mr. Biden. Mr. Biden’s campaign has criticized Facebook for allowing lies, while also spending millions of dollars to buy ads on the service to appeal to voters.

Thursday’s changes, a tacit acknowledgment by Facebook of its power to sway public discourse, did not satisfy critics who said temporarily blocking the ads would do little to reduce misinformation and that the social network should go further.

Tara McGowan, the chief executive of the liberal nonprofit group Acronym, said in a statement that right-wing publishers on Facebook, such as Breitbart, would fill the vacuum.

“By banning new political ads in the final critical days of the 2020 election, Facebook has decided to tip the scales of the election to those with the greatest followings on Facebook — and that includes President Trump and the right-wing media that serves him,” she said.

The Trump campaign was equally critical. “When millions of voters will be making their decisions, the president will be silenced by the Silicon Valley mafia, who will at the same time allow corporate media to run their biased ads to swing voters in key states,” said Samantha Zager, a campaign spokeswoman.

Facebook has continued to face criticism as domestic misinformation about this year’s election — including from Mr. Trump — has proliferated. Mr. Zuckerberg has declined to remove much of that false information, saying that Facebook supports free speech. Many Facebook employees have objected to that position.

On Tuesday, Facebook said the Kremlin-backed group that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, the Internet Research Agency, tried to meddle on its service again using fake accounts and a website set up to look like a left-wing news site. Facebook said it was warned by the F.B.I. about the effort and removed the fake accounts and news site before they had gained much traction.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

House Democrats on Thursday called on the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency charged with enforcing a law against partisan political activity by government employees, to investigate what they described as “multiple, repeated violations” of the statute, the Hatch Act, during last week’s Republican convention.

“Throughout the convention, administration officials repeatedly used their official positions and the White House itself to bolster President Trump’s re-election campaign,” Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote in a letter to the office. “We are alarmed that President Trump and some senior administration officials are actively undermining compliance with — and respect for — the law.”

Among the examples: Video of a pardon and naturalization ceremony featuring Chad Wolf, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security; a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while he was on official travel in Jerusalem; a segment in which a federal housing official interviewed New York City tenants who later said they were not told their testimonials would be used at the convention; and multiple other segments filmed on federal property, including an elaborate ceremony on the White House grounds.

The president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act, a 1939 law limitng political activities by federal employees, but it applies to the rest of the administration. Still, despite multiple violations the O.S.C. has found under Mr. Trump and past presidents, the act has rarely been enforced. Penalties for violating it include removal from federal employment and fines up to $1,000.

The Democrats also cited a New York Times article that reported that Mr. Trump had “enjoyed the frustration and anger” he elicited by holding political events on the White House grounds and that he had “relished the fact” that he could not be stopped, according to Mr. Trump’s aides.

Credit…Christian Monterrosa for The New York Times

The Trump administration prompted a barrage of complaints last month when it ordered the Census Bureau to wrap up the counting portion of the 2020 census by Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 31. The administration ordered the speedup to ensure the delivery of population figures — used to determine congressional districts — by Dec. 31, before President Trump’s term ends.

With the count already thrown into chaos by the pandemic, critics said, an early end would force the Census Bureau to cut corners and ignore inaccuracies, leading to a deeply flawed count.

Census officials rejected such arguments. But an internal Census Bureau slide show released Wednesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform lends new weight to them.

The slide show, prepared last month, details how the agency might finish the population count by the end of September, then process its data by Dec. 31 to meet the administration’s order while “achieving an acceptable level of accuracy and completeness.”

But the slide show proposes a long list of shortcuts, including reducing the number of times door-knockers try to reach a household that hasn’t responded, eliminating double-checks of address lists and eliminating some data reviews by experts .

The slide show said that speeding data processing to meet the December deadline “creates risk for serious errors not being discovered in the data — thereby significantly decreasing data quality.”

The 2020 census has been dogged by accusations that the Trump administration is seeking to skew its results to favor Republicans when population totals are used next year to divvy up seats in the House of Representatives — and, later, to draw thousands of federal, state and local political boundaries. Critics say a rushed count would miss hard-to-reach residents — the poor, people of color, immigrants, the young — who tend to support Democrats.

Credit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

The National Rifle Association’s former second-in-command breaks with the group’s orthodoxy and calls for universal background checks in a new book assailing the organization as more focused on money, internal intrigue and “appealing to the paranoia and darkest side of our members” than on the Second Amendment.

The book by the former executive, Joshua L. Powell, who was fired by the N.R.A. in January, is the first critical look at the organization’s recent history by such a high-ranking insider.

He describes the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, as an inept manager but a skilled lobbyist with a deft touch at directing President Trump to support the group’s objectives.

The book, “Inside the N.R.A.: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America,” is to be published next week, the latest public calamity for an organization that has faced years of headlines detailing allegations of corruption, infighting and even infiltration by a Russian agent.

The attorney general of New York, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit last month that seeks to dissolve the N.R.A. and seeks millions in restitution from Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Powell, among others.

In the book, Mr. Powell writes about how after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the N.R.A. rebuffed gun control measures and instead promoted a program in which it would reviewschool safety measures. Mr. Powell writes that in the four years after Sandy Hook, the N.R.A. assessed the safety of only three schools.

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