President Donald Trump talks to the crowd Wednesday at the Wilmington International Airport in Wilmington, North Carolina. Credit: Matt Born / The Star-News via AP

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said North Carolina voters who mail in ballots for November’s election should go to the polls and attempt to vote a second time to verify whether the ballots sent via the U.S. Postal Service were counted.

The president’s suggestion could lead to voters violating the law if they attempt to cast a second ballot, and his comments mark his latest salvo in his denunciation of mail-in voting, an option expected to be used by far more Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. He argues that voting by mail carries a risk of fraud and would put his Republican Party at a disadvantage.

“On your ballots,” Trump said during a visit to Wilmington, North Carolina, on Wednesday, “if you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in and then go make sure it counted and if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. You just vote, and then if they tabulate it very late, they’ll see you voted and it won’t count.

“Send it in early and then go and vote,” Trump added. “And if it’s not tabulated, you vote and the vote is going to count.”

North Carolina does allow provisional voting, a process that allows for additional scrutiny of ballots if there are questions about a person’s eligibility, including whether someone has already voted. Trump didn’t specifically mention provisional voting in his remarks.

While Trump won North Carolina in 2016, a Fox News poll released on Wednesday had his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, ahead in the state, 50 percent to 46 percent.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, said state and local officials were “playing with fire” if they sent out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots for the election.

“We haven’t had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots that’s being proposed,” Barr said. “Now what we’re talking about is mailing them to everyone on the voter list when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.” He offered no evidence for his assertions.

For years, some Republicans have been raising alarms about widespread voter fraud in the U.S., despite a lack of evidence, and they have used those warnings to promote laws that require people to show identification at a polling place and other restrictions.

Story by John Harney.