Jimmy Carter endorses absentee ballots after White House cites him

Top Trump officials referenced Carter’s 2005 report to cast doubt on vote-by-mail

Former President Jimmy Carter underscored his support of absentee ballots, pushing back against senior Trump administration officials who cited his 2005 study on mail-in-voting to question the practice in recent days.

In a short statement released late Thursday by the Carter Center, the Plains resident said, “I approve the use of absentee ballots and have been using them for more than five years.”

Carter’s comments came shortly after Attorney General William Barr referenced a bipartisan report by the Federal Election Reform Commission, which Carter co-chaired with former Secretary of State James Baker in 2005, to cast doubt on mail-in-voting.

The commission concluded that “mail-in voting is fraught with the risk of fraud and coercion,” Barr said in a Wednesday interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

A day later, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that point, saying the 2005 report found that “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”

Carter linked back to a May statement in which the Carter Center urged federal and state governments to expand access to vote-by-mail and “provide adequate funding as quickly as possible to allow for the additional planning, preparation, equipment, and public messaging that will be required.”

Citing the 2005 report, the center said voting-by-mail “creates increased logistical challenges and the potential for vote fraud” but that when ballot integrity safeguards are in place and candidates and party workers are barred from handling mail-in or absentee ballots “there was little evidence of voter fraud.”

“I urge political leaders across the country to take immediate steps to expand vote-by-mail and other measures that can help protect the core of American democracy — the right of our citizens to vote,” Carter said in May.

President Donald Trump has sharply criticized voting-by-mail, even as he cast a mail-in ballot in Florida last month. He encouraged supporters in North Carolina this week to vote twice to “test the system,” which is illegal, and alleged with little evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud.

This isn’t the first time Carter has been critical of Trump and his policies.

In 2019, Carter suggested Trump was an illegitimate president who “was put in office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.” He called Trump’s border security policies “disgraceful” and accused the president of ordering the “torture” and “kidnapping” of children.

Trump in turn called Carter a “nice man” but a “terrible president.”

“He’s been badly trashed,” Trump said of Carter. “He’s like the forgotten president. And I understand why they say that. He was not a good president.”

Voting records show that Carter submitted absentee-by-mail ballots for the March 24 presidential preference primary before it was postponed and for the June 9 primary.

Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this article.