Election 2020 Politics

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The chairman of the Federal Election Commission echoed criticisms by President Trump and other prominent Republicans of the expansion of mail-in voting in the fall, saying states that send mail ballots to “anybody and everybody” would “cause mass confusion,” according to comments he made during a recent interview.

James E. “Trey” Trainor III, a Republican commissioner, was referring to a practice in which election officials proactively send mail ballots to eligible voters, often referred to as universal mail voting.

Trainor said that while voting by mail has existed for many decades, “this wholesale of just mailing out ballots to anybody and everybody — I think is going to cause mass confusion as we get towards Election Day.” Trump has used similar rhetoric about the expansion of mail voting.

During the interview, Trainor referenced how the expansion of mail voting could confuse voters in his home state of Texas. However, Texas maintains strict limits on who can vote by mail.

He warned that in Texas, “if you were to receive a ballot in the mail that you didn’t ask for, you’re going to get on a list that says you have a ballot in your hands. And if you go to show up on Election Day to vote, they’re not going to let you vote because they think you have a ballot in yours hands.”

Trainor then said voters would need to go to their county clerk’s office to surrender their mail ballots to vote in person — a “rigorous process” that would slow down voters on Election Day and create “mass chaos.”

In fact, Texas is one of only six remaining states that are using strict lists of excuses to decide who can vote by mail this year. Absentee ballots will be mailed only to voters who have been approved to receive one because they are 65 years or older; have a disability; are out of the county on Election Day and during early voting; or are jailed but otherwise eligible to vote.

Those in Texas who applied for an absentee ballot and received one in the mail but still want to vote at the polls on Election Day must surrender their mailed ballot, as Trainor described.

Trainor, previously an Austin-based election law attorney who had advised the Republican National Committee and Trump during the 2016 election, was appointed as FEC commissioner in May and became chairman shortly after he was sworn in.

The FEC enforces federal election laws and regulations for candidates and campaigns. It does not regulate election administration.

Trainor’s interview was published Wednesday on Church Militant, considered a fringe Catholic website known for incendiary content and which espouses right-wing stances against globalism, immigration, abortion and “radical Islam.”

Earlier this year, the website drew backlash for its video of Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the first Black leader of the Archdiocese of Washington, describing him as an “accused homosexual,” a “Marxist” and an “African Queen.”

Church Militant, which operates within the Archdiocese of Detroit, was reprimanded by the archdiocese in 2011 and told to change its name from “Real Catholic TV” because the archdiocese said it “lacked the authorization required under Church law to identify or promote itself as Catholic.”

Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.

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