April 13 (UPI) -- Former First Lady Michelle Obama and the non-profit voter registration group she chairs threw support behind Democratic lawmakers' efforts to make it easier to vote by mail, a trend President Donald Trump says is rife with fraud.
"No American should have to choose between making their voice heard and staying safe," Obama tweeted Monday, along with a message from the non-partisan When We All Vote.
"Expanding access to #VoteByMail, online voter registration and early voting are critical steps for this moment-they're also long overdue."
Obama and When We All Vote launched a grassroots states-based campaign Monday to allow all electors to vote absentee, allow voters to request ballots online, and move mail ballot request windows closer to election day.
Twenty-two states still plan primary elections as the country endures state lockdown orders for the coronavirus outbreak. This has led to some states postponing the vote and extending absentee voting.
Most recently, in Wisconsin, thousands of masked voters stood in line for hours waiting to vote and hundreds of absentee ballots were lost in the mail, or sent too late to be counted.
Congressional Democrats have proposed spending billions of federal dollars to find safer ways to expand voting by mail and early voting at the state level
But Trump and some Republicans have opposed mail-in ballots.
The president, who voted by absentee ballot in Florida, said last week, "People cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, because they're cheaters. ... They're fraudulent in many cases."
A conservative group, Honest Elections Project, this week announced the launch of a $250,000 ad campaign with the tag line "It should be easy to vote, hard to cheat."
"There are a lot more opportunities for malfeasance," in mail-in ballots, Honest Election Project's Executive Director Jason Snead told NBC.
Election fraud via absentee ballots is more prevalent than in-person voting, but it is still rare, Richard L. Hasen, law professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, wrote in a Thursday editorial in the Washington Post.
Five states already vote primarily by mail, and voter turnout has seen record highs in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, he said.
"While certain pockets of the country have seen their share of absentee-ballot scandals, problems are extremely rare in the five states that rely primarily on vote-by-mail, including the heavily Republican state of Utah," Hasen wrote.
Most recently, authorities in North Carolina charged a Republican political operative, McCrae Dowless, in a mail-in voting fraud scheme during the 2016 general election and the 2018 primary on behalf of GOP House candidate Mark Harris. Witnesses testified that Dowless paid them to collect ballots and filled out some himself.
Absentee voting by mail is allowed in all states, but differs by state in method, timing and permitted reasons to vote absentee.
The voting-by-mail issue has split along party lines, with Trump tweeting on Wednesday, "Democrats are clamoring for [mail-in voting]. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn't work out well for Republicans."
But Obama said Monday in a statement that safe voting by mail was an issue that transcended politics.
"[T]here is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our country," Obama said. "Making the democracy we all cherish more accessible; and protecting our neighbors, friends and loved ones as they participate in this cornerstone of American life."