Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said Tuesday that voters should “stop being so afraid” of voting in person in November despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Cramer, who voted by mail in his state’s primary in June, suggested that giving voters three days to cast their ballots would avoid crowding at polling locations and help mitigate the risks of contracting the virus, which has so far resulted in the deaths of at least 156,000 Americans.
“I know there are people that will have concerns ― it’s going to take more people at the polls, the cost to counties ― but if we want to get creative, I’d prefer to still encourage as much in-person voting as possible rather than universal mail,” Cramer told reporters on Capitol Hill.
GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota tells @nancycordes that voters should “stop being so afraid” to vote in person, before suggesting that the coronavirus death toll might be inflated https://t.co/2YaaMmDurh pic.twitter.com/Tmr764mskm
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 4, 2020
The debate over voting by mail has intensified in recent weeks after some states moved to expand mail-in voting eligibility because of the coronavirus outbreak. Even North Dakota’s Republican governor, Doug Burgum, moved to expand vote-by-mail for his state’s primary. Most counties in the state voted by mail.
But President Donald Trump has continued to attack expanded vote-by-mail systems, falsely calling them “corrupt” or “fraudulent.” Democrats suspect Trump is attempting to lay the groundwork to contest the legitimacy of the presidential election if he loses to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who currently leads in most polls.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. elections involving mail-in voting. But election officials have reported some difficulties processing ballots quickly due to the historically large number of ballots voters are casting by mail this year.
Ahead of Tuesday’s primary in Michigan, for example, election officials reported 2,066,000 absentee ballots had been sent to voters, compared with about 575,000 at the same point in August 2016. The trend is reflected nationally and seems to suggest voters would prefer not to vote in person during a pandemic.
Asked Tuesday if people should vote in person despite rising death rates, Cramer suggested the mortality data may be inflated because some deaths are being misattributed to the virus.
“I know of several where coronavirus was not the case of death but yet they counted as one,” Cramer said.
There’s no evidence that the death tally is being systematically inflated or miscounted. Public health experts have said that undercounting is actually more likely.
“I don’t know exactly what percent higher, but almost certainly it is higher,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told Congress earlier this year.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.