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Trump flips, now encouraging Michigan residents to vote absentee

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
President Donald Trump

In an about face on mail-in voting in Michigan, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday to encourage voters to request absentee ballots and vote early. 

Trump's latest messaging on mail-in voting marks a mercurial swing from May, when the president threatened to withhold funding from Michigan after Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson mailed absentee ballot applications to all of Michigan's 7.7 million qualified voters. "Mail-in ballots are very dangerous. There's tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality," he said at the time without providing evidence. 

Last week, the president criticized Benson over a mistake on more than 400 overseas ballots that listed a Libertarian candidate as Trump's running mate instead of Vice President Mike Pence. The state caught and corrected its mistake within an hour and a half of it occurring.  

Political observers have predicted Trump's earlier criticisms of mail-in voting could lead to lost votes in November in a state where he won by a narrow 10,704 vote margin in 2016. 

In recent weeks, Trump's surrogates have increasingly encouraged mail-in voting, including his son Eric Trump. The gradual warming to absentee voting appeared to culminate in Trump's Monday tweet.

"Attention MICHIGAN! Early voting has started AND absentee ballots are being mailed out. Take advantage of the early voting and absentee calendar," he wrote in a tweet that included a link to the state's Michigan Voter Information Center

Trump posted a similar tweet Monday address to voters in New Hampshire.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told The Detroit News this month that the party has a "standard" absentee voting strategy" and has always encouraged voters to “use processes that have been vetted and tried and tested."

Nearly 2.3 million people have requested absentee ballots ahead of the November election and officials have estimated the number could grow to 3 million by Nov.3. 

Benson has estimated more than 5 million Michigan residents could vote in the general election, which would surpass the 4.8 million people who voted in 2016. The highest turnout in Michigan occurred in the 2008 election, when a little more than 5 million visited the polls. 

A Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll found Michigan residents planning to vote absentee favor former Vice President Joe Biden 68% to 25% and those planning to vote in-person favor Trump 55% to 31%. Democrat Biden led Trump 47% to 42% in the Sept. 1-3 survey of 600 likely voters that had a plus-minus 4-point margin of error. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com