Did Trump once again encourage supporters to illegally vote twice?

Even many of those who expect the worst from Trump were taken aback when he encouraged supporters to vote twice. A day later, he seemed to do it again.
Image: FILES-US-VOTE-POLITICS-election
Voters cast their ballots at the Kent County Public Library in Maryland's early voting on Oct. 25, 2018.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file
By Steve Benen

Even many of those who've come to expect the worst from Donald Trump were taken aback this week. The president appeared to tell his supporters in North Carolina, out loud and in all seriousness, to effectively vote twice -- once by mail, and then again in person. Those who follow the advice would be subject to criminal prosecution, since voting twice in the same election is a felony.

The White House tried its best to argue that the president hadn't actually encouraged his followers to commit deliberate voter fraud, but Team Trump's attempts to clarify the Republican's rhetoric were, at best, unpersuasive.

It was against this backdrop that the president hit the campaign trail again last night, and as NBC News reported, Trump seemed to "double down" on the legally dubious directions he issued the day before.

President Donald Trump doubled down on the notion that his supporters should vote twice in the November election, promoting voter fraud while stoking unfounded fear about the validity of the presidential election results at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania Thursday night.

“Sign your mail-in ballot," Trump said. "Sign it and send it in and then you have to follow it. And if on Election Day or early voting, that is not tabulated and counted, you go vote. And if for some reason after that -- it shouldn’t take that long -- they’re not going to be able to tabulate it because you would have voted.”

This is not how the process is supposed to work. There's no reason for voters to cast a ballot through the mail, then show up at their local precinct, expecting a poll worker to give them an update on the status of their ballot. (States already have portals for this purpose.)

It's equally problematic for the president to say local election officials are "not going to be able to tabulate it" -- in context, "it" appears to refer to the second vote -- "because you would have voted.” But that's not how this works, either: it's not up to election officials to simply disregard the redundant, illegally cast vote.

Indeed, the then-candidate said something similar to Colorado voters four years ago, and that was wrong, too.

As NBC News' report added, "Trump appeared to justify his call to vote twice by telling rally attendees that if their mail-in ballot came in after they had voted in-person, then it would not get counted. It is illegal to vote twice."

Those last six words are of particular interest, in large part because it's the detail the president seems to be overlooking, which his followers need to take seriously to avoid prosecution.