President Trump encouraged supporters in North Carolina on Wednesday to vote twice, once by mail and once in person — which is illegal — in order to "test" mail-in voting systems that he has spent months discrediting.
"If they tabulate it very late, which they shouldn't be doing, they'll see you voted, and so it won't count. So send it in early and then go and vote," the president said at an airport rally in Wilmington. "And if it's not tabulated, you vote, and the vote is going to count. You can't let them take your vote away."
President Trump suggested that voters should test that system by purposefully attempting to vote-by-mail and in-person.
"They will vote and then they are going to have to check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won't be able to do that," he told supporters. "So, let them send it in and let them go vote."
"If the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won't be able to vote (at the poll)," Mr. Trump said. "If it isn't tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that's the way it is, and that's what they should do."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to defend the president's comments and insisted he wasn't encouraging voter fraud.
"The president does not condone unlawful voting. The president's been very clear about this," McEnany said, adding that reporters are taking the president "out of context."
But the North Carolina State Board of Elections tweeted a statement Thursday warning, "It is illegal to vote twice in an election." In fact, it's a Class I felony, the statement said, quoting North Carolina law, for "a voter 'with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary or election.'"
The statement also goes on to say that soliciting a person to try to vote twice "is a violation of North Carolina law," and the elections board has a "dedicated investigations team that investigates allegations of double voting."
The board says that after every election, it also conducts an audit that would detect if a person tries to vote more than once in an election, and further notes that "[b]ecause absentee ballots and early voting ballots are retrievable, if someone tries to get around the system, their ballot can be retrieved and not counted, so it will not affect the outcome of an election."
North Carolina starts sending out mail in ballots on Friday, making it the first state in the nation to begin collecting ballots for the November election.
CBS News Raleigh affiliate reports that it is "clerically impossible" for a person to vote twice in North Carolina because the state tracks a voter's ballot from the moment it is requested to when it is received by the local Board of Elections. Therefore, voters who have already mailed ballots will not be allowed to cast votes on Election Day.
North Carolina allows voters who receive absentee ballots in the mail to vote in person if they change their minds, but advises them to discard the mail ballot.
Some states allow voters to request their mail in votes to be invalidated, allowing them to vote in person. However, intentionally voting twice is a fraud and felony in most states and could fuel chaos at polling places on Election Day.
Mr. Trump began criticizing mail-in voting in May, alleging without evidence it leads to voter fraud.
He tweeted on May 26 that "There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-in Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent." The tweet prompted Twitter to issue its.
Despite repeated criticism of the practice, earlier this month Mr. Trumpfor Florida's primary election.
Mr. Trump has praised the mail voting system in the Sunshine State, which is led by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. "Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True," Mr. Trump tweeted. "Florida's Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!"
Ballots were mailed to both the president and first lady Melania Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort, which Mr. Trump lists as his legal address, according to online Palm Beach County elections records. The first couple previously voted by mail for the presidential preference primary in March, according to records.