Former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff says November election should "definitely" include mail-in ballots

Chertoff on D.C. reopening
Chertoff on D.C. reopening 06:23

Washington — Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Sunday he believes the November election "should definitely include mail-in-ballots" as election officials grapple with how to protect voters from exposure to the coronavirus during voting. 

"The positive side of mail-in ballots is it allows people to vote without putting themselves at risk for long lines in an actual physical election voting site," Chertoff said on "Face the Nation."

The coronavirus pandemic roiled the 2020 election season and left state officials scrambling to figure out how voters in their respective states could safely cast their ballots in the primaries. Several states canceled in-person voting and expanded vote-by-mail, while others postponed their primary elections. 

Election officials are now weighing how best to protect voters in November's general election amid concerns of new coronavirus outbreaks in the fall. While there have been growing calls to expand vote-by-mail, President Trump and his conservative allies are vehemently opposed. 

Mr. Trump claimed without evidence last week that Nevada and Michigan were breaking the law by expanding vote-by-mail and threatened to withhold federal funds to the states. On Sunday, he proclaimed the country "cannot have all mail in ballots."

"It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and 'force' people to sign," Mr. Trump tweeted. "Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!" the president tweeted, though he did not provide evidence of his claims.

Despite the allegations from the president that vote-by-mail invites voter fraud, Chertoff, who led the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, said there has "never been a demonstration of widespread fraud or misbehavior in mail-in ballots."

Chertoff also suggested states expand locations for curbside voting, where voters drive up and deposit their ballots on-site.

"Having the most options possible is the best way to make sure people get to exercise their very important franchise as voters," he said.

Chertoff has been selected to co-chair a task force assembled by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser that focuses on reopening the nation's capital. The task force revealed its recommendations for reopening D.C. on Thursday and suggested schools should not fully reopen until there is a coronavirus vaccine.

Chertoff said that under the recommendations, distance learning would be mandatory in the first stage of reopening, then schools would allow in-person instruction for specific students.

"Those entering transitional grades or needing extra instruction would come in first," Chertoff said. "We'd make sure to maintain distancing in classrooms to keep the collection of people in a particular classroom below a certain number, like 10; to make sure the same youngsters were together throughout the day so you don't have a lot of people mixing with other groups; and then to have present on staff people with health background and experience in case someone displays symptoms or some issue arises. And the idea would be eventually during the course of this time, to basically reopen, but in a very measured and deliberate way."