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While Trump tries to discredit mail voting, GOP officials move ahead with plans

How is the pandemic shaping the 2020 race?
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As President Trump continues to insist voting should be in-person and alleges voting by mail leads to fraud, some Republican officials are moving forward with preparations for an increase in mail-in voting, especially in the upcoming primaries across the country, as well as in the general election. 

It's the latest sign that while Mr. Trump might be trying to discredit the mail-in process from the bully pulpit, a growing number of voters are indicating support for such options amid health concerns related to the coronavirus and the uncertainty about how safe it will be to vote in the weeks and months ahead. 

"There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent," President Trump tweeted Tuesday, while taking aim at the plan by California's governor to send absentee ballots to all registered voters for the November general election. 

"This will be a Rigged Election" he went on, despite having voted by mail himself in the Florida primary, and despite the victory of Republican Mike Garcia recently in the special election in California, where voters were sent mail-in ballots. 

And while the president pushes this narrative, without offering any proof to substantiate his accusations, in many cases, officials from his own party are promoting vote-by-mail options ahead of upcoming primaries across the country. 

Pennsylvania's voters must sign up to vote by mail by Tuesday for the state's June 2 primary. It's the first item displayed on the state Republican Party's webpage, where an image of President Trump looms behind the link to the ballot request form. The headline reads, "Vote by Mail. Safe from Home." 

The vote-by-mail page itself touts the mail-in option for all registered voters and includes a message explaining "why it's safe." It states that GOP legislators, along with the chairman of the state Republican Party made sure there were key voter protections in the legislation passed in 2019 by the Republican controlled state House and Senate and signed by a Democratic governor. 

Even while the Trump campaign has accused Democrats of trying to "steal" the election, it has promoted the absentee voting option ahead of the Pennsylvania primary, and in the Wisconsin special election that took place earlier this month.

At the same time, the Republican Party of Florida has also pushed the use of vote-by-mail. In a recent email, the subject line read, "Request to vote by mail," and it included a link to contact the county supervisor of elections to request a mail-in ballot. 

"In Florida, anyone can choose to vote-by-mail if they wish," the email stated. "During these uncertain times, it's better to be safe than sorry and we need to ensure that every Trump supporter we know has taken the necessary steps NOW to vote by mail in the manner they choose."

Meanwhile, Republican election officials are also urging people to vote-by-mail. Last week, the Georgia Republican secretary of state's office sent out a press release encouraging absentee ballot voting because COVID-19 precautions are likely to result in longer lines at the polls.

"Considering the health risks posed by COVID-19, Georgians should seriously consider submitting an absentee ballot by mail for the June 9 elections," Brad Raffesnperger said in a statement. He went on to note the "tradition of in-person voting and look forward to returning to normal in-person voting in future elections," but called the extra precautions "necessary."

His message to voters came the same day the president threatened to withhold funding from Michigan, claiming it "sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election," an inaccurate statement that was corrected later, though the threat remained. The president also tweeted a similar threat about Nevada. 

But Nevada's plan to hold an all-mail primary on June 9 had also been announced by its Republican secretary of state. After the president's tweet, the office of Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske released a statement calling the mail-in ballot decision "necessary and prudent."

Nevada and Georgia's Republican secretaries of state are not the only ones encouraging the use of mail-in voting, despite the president's claims of fraud. 

In Kentucky, the Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams mailed all registered voters postcards explaining their options for the upcoming June 23 primary, including absentee voting by mail. He's been promoting the portal to request an absentee ballot online, as has the Kentucky Republican Party on Twitter, ahead of Tuesday's deadline.  

In early May, Kansas' Republican secretary of state also released a statement encouraging individuals concerned about the prolonged impact of COVID-19 to request an advance ballot-by-mail.  

In late April, Iowa's GOP secretary of state also announced his office would send absentee ballot request forms to every active registered voter in the state and encouraged all Iowans to "vote from home." 

As for the candidates, there has been little comment on vote-by-mail efforts ahead of the summer primary season. CBS News reached out to Republican John James, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Michigan, after the president's tweet about Michigan but did not hear back. 

"They've got to chart their own course on this," said Republican strategist Terry Sullivan. "I don't think there's any penalty for Republicans pushing for vote-by-mail." 

He added that unless they have a pending primary, there is no need to say anything about it right now.

Eleanor Watson, LaCrai Mitchell and Nicole Sganga contributed reporting.

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