Jimmy Carter is pushing back on efforts by Attorney General William Barr and the White House to use the former Democratic president’s work studying voting by mail to discredit the practice.
“I approve the use of absentee ballots and have been using them for more than five years,” Carter said in a statement Thursday.
He also contextualized his findings from a mail-voting commission in 2005 that Barr and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany have employed to disparage voting by mail.
Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, Barr had referenced the “fundamental problem” that “the bipartisan commission chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker said … that mail-in voting is fraught with the risk of fraud and coercion.”
McEnany had asserted earlier Thursday that Carter “said in 2005, as part of a bipartisan commission, absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
But Carter on Thursday pointed to a statement last May from the Carter Center endorsing the use of mail-in ballots. Using the findings from the 2005 commission report, that statement argued “that where safeguards for ballot integrity are in place … there was little evidence of voter fraud.”
In its report, the commission had mentioned Oregon – which votes entirely by mail – as a model, noting that the state “appears to have avoided significant fraud in its vote by mail elections by introducing safeguards to protect ballot integrity, including signature verification. Vote by mail is, however, likely to increase the risks of fraud and of contested elections in other states, where the population is more mobile, where there is some history of troubled elections, or where the safeguards for ballot integrity are weaker.”
The May statement from the Carter Center continued, “Fortunately, since 2005, many states have gained substantial experience in vote-by-mail and have shown how key concerns can be effectively addressed through appropriate planning, resources, training, and messaging.”
President Donald Trump and members of his administration have frequently and baselessly assailed voting by mail as prone to fraud.
Such comments contradict the views of bipartisan election officials and a wide array of voting experts, who say voting by mail is a safe option with protections in place to prevent systematic fraud.
There is no widespread fraud in US elections, even in states with a history of heavy mail-in voting.