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Trump appears to suggest North Carolina voters try to vote twice

Intentionally voting twice is a felony, a North Carolina elections spokesman reportedly said.

WILMINGTON, N.C. — President Donald Trump, who has claimed without proof that voting by mail will lead to widespread fraud, on Wednesday appeared to encourage voters in North Carolina to try voting twice -- by absentee and in person.

Intentionally voting twice is a felony, a state elections spokesman told the New York Time.

In an interview with WECT in Wilmington, said if system is working properly, then it should prevent someone from voting more than once. The comment was in response to the fact that nearly 600,000 North Carolinians have asked for an absentee ballot -- the vast majority of which have been requested by Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

“They will vote and then they are going to have to check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that. So, let them send it in and let them go vote,” Trump said. “And if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.”

“But send your ballots, send them in strong, whether it’s solicited or unsolicited. The absentees are fine. But go to vote and if they haven’t counted it, you can vote. That’s the way I view it," Trump said.

Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, told the New York Times that systems are in place to prevent double voting. Gannon said if a person's absentee ballot is already in and they go to the polls on Nov. 3, poll workers will see they have already voted. And if a person votes at the polls and their absentee ballot arrives later, the absentee won't be counted.

He added this warning.

“Intentional willful double voting is a felony,” Gannon said.

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Ballots must be postmarked by 5 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3, and arrive no later than Nov. 6. The U.S. Postal Service has encouraged people nationwide to mail in their ballot no later than Oct. 27 to ensure it arrives by Election Day.

Trump has said he is fine with absentee ballots but not "unsolicited" ballots, likely referring to ballots automatically sent to registered voters. The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in Nevada and Montana to stop all-mail voting. Five other states were already exclusively sending ballots to all registered voters even before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The TEGNA VERIFY team investigated and found only one difference between absentee and mail-in ballots. Absentees must be requested. Mail-in ballots are sent automatically to registered voters.

North Carolina is not sending ballots to all registered voters, but does allow them to request an absentee.  

Trump won North Carolina by 3.6 percentage points in 2016, but polls are showing an extremely close race taking shape in a state that generates 15 electoral votes for its winner.

Through Sept. 1, more than 591,000 ballot requests had been received, compared to approximately 36,500 through the same period in 2016, the state elections board said Wednesday.

More than half of the absentee ballots, or approximately 313,000 have been requested by Democrats. Republicans have requested more than 93,000 and registered unaffiliated voters account for approximately 183,000 ballot requests.

WCNC Staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.