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Donald Trump
stated on May 26, 2020 in a tweet:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom “is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one" and the election is "Rigged."
true pants-fire
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters after meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) President Donald Trump speaks with reporters after meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters after meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Chris Nichols
By Chris Nichols May 26, 2020

No, California Is Not Sending Mail-In Ballots “To Anyone In The State,” As Trump Falsely Claimed

If Your Time is short

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan calls for sending mail-in ballots only to active registered voters in California, not to “anyone.” 
  • Several GOP groups filed a lawsuit to halt the governor’s plan. 

  • Trump’s claim that voting by mail leads to fraud is misleading. Election experts have found it is exceedingly rare.

President Trump claimed on Twitter Tuesday, without evidence, that California Gov. Gavin Newsom is sending millions of ballots to "anyone living in the state, no matter who they are," while adding "This will be a Rigged Election. No way!"

In the same Twitter thread, Trump repeated his allegation that voting by mail "is substantially fraudulent," a claim election experts have said is overblown

Here’s Trump’s full statement: 

"There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone.....

....living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!"

Trump repeated his claim during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, saying "anybody that walks in California is going to get a ballot." 

Trump’s attacks come two days after the California Republican Party, along with national GOP groups, filed a federal lawsuit against Newsom, a Democrat, to halt his plan to send mail-in ballots to Californians ahead of the November election.

Newsom earlier this month ordered all counties to send out mail-in ballots, citing health concerns amid COVID-19. Contrary to Trump’s claim, no ballots have yet been sent out.

We zeroed in on Trump’s claim that "anyone living in the state, no matter who they are" would receive these ballots. We set out on a fact check. 

Our research

A review of Newsom’s executive order shows only registered voters would receive vote-by-mail ballots, not "anyone living in the state," as Trump claimed.  

"Each county elections officials shall transmit vote-by-mail ballots for the November 3, 2020 General Election to all voters who are, as of the last day on which vote-by-mail ballots may be transmitted to voters in connection with that election, registered to vote in that election. As set forth in this paragraph, every Californian who is eligible to vote in the November 3, 2020 General Election shall receive a vote-by-mail ballot."

The Secretary of State’s website outlines criteria for registering to vote in California. 

You must be: 

This criteria reinforces the fact that not just "anyone" would receive a ballot. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for evidence supporting Trump’s statement. 

Newsom rejected the president’s assertion that voting by mail leads to fraud when asked about it during a press conference on Tuesday. The governor also cited several studies that have examined the practice and found an extremely low rate of fraud, including a 5-year effort by the Bush administration that turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections. 

"I don’t think it deserves to be politicized. This is a health issue," Newsom added. 

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who is also a Democrat, also disputed the president’s assertion.

"Only active registered voters will be mailed a ballot ahead of the November 3, 2020 General Election. The President’s tweet is completely false," the spokesperson wrote in an email. 

Voters are considered "inactive" if they do not vote in two consecutive federal general elections or if their county receives a returned residency confirmation without a forwarding address within the same county, according to the Secretary of State’s website

Trump’s claim led Twitter, for the first time on Tuesday, to place a fact-checking warning on the president’s tweet. A spokesperson for Twitter told NPR the tweet contains "misleading information about the voting process, specifically mail-in ballots."

Padilla has pushed back against Trump’s past claims about vote-by-mail.

On Twitter on Sunday, Padilla responded to the GOP lawsuit this way: "Expanding vote-by-mail during a pandemic is not a partisan issue — it’s a moral imperative to protect voting rights and public safety. Vote-by-mail has been used safely and effectively in red, blue, and purple states for years. This lawsuit is just another part of Trump’s political smear campaign against voting by mail. We will not let this virus be exploited for voter suppression."

Some Republicans have cited issues of voter roll maintenance as evidence of fraud. President Trump, for example, has falsely cited a January 2019 settlement California reached with the conservative group Judicial Watch as evidence. On "Meet the Press" last year, Trump alleged the settlement shows California "admitted" there were "a million" illegal votes in the 2016 presidential election. We rated that claim Pants On Fire.

In reality, the agreement Trump cited required Los Angeles County election officials to remove inactive registrations from voter rolls to comply with federal law. The 20-page settlement document, however, notes all parties agreed there was no admission of liability or wrongdoing by the state or county. It makes no mention of voter fraud or illegal voting.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump distorted the findings in a 2012 Pew study to allege widespread voter fraud was taking place. The national study found 24 million voter registrations were "no longer valid or significantly inaccurate." More than 1.8 million dead people were listed as voters, the report said, and 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state.

Trump has used that study to allege "dead people" are voting. But an analysis of the study by FactCheck.org shows "The report did not allege the 1.8 million deceased people actually voted. Rather, Pew said that it is evidence of the need to upgrade voter registration systems." 

Our rating

President Trump claimed California Gov. Gavin Newsom "is sending millions of ballots to anyone living in the state, no matter who they are," while adding "This will be a Rigged Election. No way!"

In reality, Newsom ordered counties to send mail-in ballots only to registered voters in California, hardly to "anyone living in the state." 

To register to vote in California, residents must be 18, U.S. citizens, not in state or federal prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and not declared mentally incompetent to vote by a court. 

When combined with the misleading allegation that mail-in voting leads to fraud (something election experts say is exceedingly rare), and Trump’s assertion that California’s election will be "Rigged," the president’s overall claim is reckless, unsubstantiated and wrong.

We rate it Pants On Fire! 

Our Sources

President Trump’s tweet, May 26, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order, May 8, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, news conference, May 26, 2020

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s tweet, May 24, 2020

The New York Times, In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud, April 12, 2007

CapRadio, California Republican Party Files Lawsuit Over Gov. Newsom’s Vote-By-Mail Plans, May 26, 2020

NPR, Twitter Points Users To Fact Checks Of Trump Tweets For The First Time, May 26, 2020

PolitiFact California PANTS ON FIRE: Trump’s latest California voter fraud claim as baseless as past allegations, June 24, 2019

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Chris Nichols

No, California Is Not Sending Mail-In Ballots “To Anyone In The State,” As Trump Falsely Claimed

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