Disinformation raged with ballot applications set to open flames during the “Operation Incinerator” protest in west Michigan.
WALKER, MI— Protesters sporting pro-Trump clothing and flags gathered outside the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker Friday to set fire to their absentee ballot applications.
Called Operation Incinerator, the demonstration is one of a series of planned protests against Michigan’s decision to encourage vote-by-mail, reports WOOD.
This is the latest installment in a feud between President Donald Trump and Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over the state’s vote-by-mail process, which has shown record-smashing success so far during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We are not here to protest ballots, they’re for voting. Our protest is for the applications to be sent to those who have not even requested them,” said Michael Farage, president of the Grand Rapids Taxpayers Association. “For them just to issue them without merit, without request to absolutely everybody — that is a great waste of taxpayer money.”
Bridge notes the plan to send an absentee ballot application to every one of Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters would cost $4.5 million, a little less than 60 cents per voter. And given the calamitous results of in-person voting during the pandemic seen in states like Wisconsin and Georgia that Politico reported, Michigan feels focusing on such efforts is warranted.
Benson, a Democrat, said she took the step to make it convenient for people to vote by mail with an absentee ballot and avoid the risk of the coronavirus.
Farage’s comments reflect a broader engagement in misinformation and disinformation surrounding mail-in voting. The ‘Gander reported in Trump’s initial exchange with Benson on Twitter, he falsely claimed first that Michigan was sending out ballots, not applications as was actually happening. He then claimed falsely that doing so was against the law in Michigan.
Trump’s remarks about mail-in voting escalated to the point that Twitter itself took action, pairing links to fact-checking with his tweets about the process being rife with fraud, a claim that has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked.
There is no evidence that Michigan’s May election, conducted almost entirely by mail, saw substantive fraud. Benson testified to Congress that in the rare instances voter fraud does occur in Michigan, it is caught and prosecuted.
And the insistence from Trump that fueled the Operation Incinerator protest may backfire. As The ‘Gander reported, the Trump campaign is encouraging people to vote by mail to avoid possible coronavirus infection while the president himself still condemns the “fraudulent” practice.
Benson has expressed concern that the scale of misinformation and disinformation around Michigan’s elections could intensify as elections draw nearer.
“There will be efforts — strong, well funded, national and perhaps internationally-led efforts — to try and confuse voters about their votes and their rights in our state,” she told The ‘Gander and Equality Michigan last month. “If you removed that misinformation campaign that no doubt will come for many reasons to further various political agendas and partisan agendas … [the elections] would go very well, very smoothly. I have no doubt about that.”
Separately, Benson has announced a way to request an absentee ballot by going online.
The new function lets people visit a state website and submit their driver’s license number and the last four digits of their Social Security number.
The completed application will go to the voter’s local clerk. The new option cuts out the need for scanning, printing or mailing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.