Gov. Lee repeats unsubstantiated President Trump claim linking vote-by-mail to fraud

Posted at 5:45 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 23:49:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee repeated an unsubstantiated claim that an expansion of mail-in ballots for this year's elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to fraud.

A lawsuit currently seeks to allow anyone fearful of contracting COVID-19 at a polling place to request a mail-in ballot. Right now, Tennessee voters need a valid excuse to request a mail-in ballot. State law affords that opportunity to older voters, and those who are ill or disabled, among other groups. But Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has said fear of contracting the coronavirus isn't a valid excuse.

While a judge is set to rule on the issue next week, NewsChannel 5 asked Gov. Lee about the issue at his Thursday press briefing.

"Fundamentally, I don’t believe that we ought to have absentee voting with no excuse because it opens up opportunities for fraud," Lee said.

Lee offered no evidence during the briefing to back up that claim.

Lee's claims linking increased vote-by-mail to opportunities for fraud are similar to claims President Trump made this week on Twitter, in two tweets that were flagged for factual inaccuracies by the social media giant.

"I don’t think there actually is evidence of fraud," said Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis). "I think that’s something you’ve seen our president say on the national level, and Twitter actually fact checked him and said there’s no evidence that having expanded absentee voting leads to fraud."

Experts say mail-in ballots are vary rarely linked to fraud. One review found only 31 fraud cases in more than a billion absentee and in-person votes cast in the United States between 2000 and 2014.

"When you don’t have fraud, and you're alleging that, I think it can be kind of dangerous and discourage people to vote -- people who really need to vote by mail," Akbari said.