Attorney General William Barr attacked the use of postal ballot papers in US elections on Sunday, saying they could "open the door to potential fraud."
His comment in an interview with Fox News repeated repeated claims by President Donald Trump that he warned the US states against using postal ballot papers in the November elections without showing any significant problems in the past.
At a time of "intense division in the country," Barr said, postal ballots could "open the door to potential fraud" and undermine public confidence in the election results.
He suggested that people's ballots could be stolen from mailboxes – or that even a foreign power could print "tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots" to influence the outcome.
Electors were skeptical of such claims.
Many states and municipalities have been using postal ballot papers for years without having more than a few problems. And foreign Americans and military forces stationed abroad voted in the mail without serious complaints about fraud.
But the practice was closely examined this year.
Vote and the virus
In the polling stations of several states, in which the primaries take place in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic, voters stand in long lines for hours, also because of social distance.
The political impact of postal voting is not entirely clear.
There has been speculation that it could benefit Democrats, as some lower-income voters may have greater difficulty getting to polling stations than wealthier Republicans. Mail-in ballots are also popular in some rural areas where Trump is strong.
A Stanford University study last month on the impact of mail-in voting in elections since 1996 concluded that practice leads to a modest increase in voter turnout, but "does not appear to increase the bipartisan vote share".
The President's harsh criticism has given the debate a political twist.
In one of his Twitter posts in all capitals last month, Trump wrote: "MAIL-IN VOTES LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE. THEY ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY."
Barr's defense of this argument led to renewed criticism that he went beyond the traditional role of attorney general to act, as some Democrats put it, as the president's personal lawyer.
Gun for the DOJ
Last month, Twitter twice took the rare step of warning readers of Trump's contributions to the mail-in poll, and referred to a CNN article in which the president's allegations of fraud were unfounded.
Some democratic critics have speculated that Trump, who warned of his surprising 2016 election victory that the vote could be "manipulated", has laid the groundwork for a lawsuit in the event that he loses to Democrat Joe Biden.
Biden is leading in recent opinion polls, including in some key countries, while Trump's support has steadily waned in the face of criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and racist tensions.
Vanita Gupta, a former head of the Department of Civil Rights at the Department of Justice and CEO of a rights group, said on Twitter: "Barr is setting up a weapon against the DOJ to challenge a November Trump loss based on lies about legitimate voting methods. He should to be accused. "
In fact, Trump even voted by postal vote in the 2018 midterm elections after changing his voter registration from New York to Florida.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)