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Balance of Power

Claim: Trump’s executive orders on Covid-19 economic relief are illegal. Fact check: Mixed

On Saturday, President Trump signed three memorandums and one executive order that are designed to help Americans dealing with the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus lock-down. The three memorandums address student loan payment relief, deferring payroll tax obligations, and using emergency funds to provide economic relief to states and people who are unemployed. The executive order deals with rent relief. The legality of the memorandum on the use of emergency funds for relief has been questioned, and may be on shakier legal ground compared to the other measures. The three other actions may fall within the president's purview because the president has the authority to delay student loan payments and defer taxes in times of disaster, and the order on rent relief is less sweeping than some initially thought.

The order on rent relief states: "Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19." The memorandum also states that the heads of other agencies should identify funds to be used to help renters and should try to help renters avoid eviction. It does not state exactly what actions or funds are to be used, and it doesn't impose strict requirements on these agencies to take a specific action.

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Trump may not have the authority to create enhanced unemployment programs because the Stafford Disaster Relief Act allows the president to give unemployment aid only to those not eligible for other unemployment benefits, and it does not allow the amount given to unemployed people to exceed the normal amount of unemployment benefits given to them by the state.

In the memorandums on student loans and tax deferment, Trump referenced specific laws that allow the president to delay or defer payments in times of disaster or economic hardship. The president can delay student loans for up to three years for people who experience economic hardship. Additionally, the president can defer collection of federal taxes during a disaster.

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Claim: Mail-in ballots can be sent to the wrong address. Fact check: False

Absentee voting refers to when a voter requests a ballot for an election and is then sent one in the mail. Vote-by-mail, which is what Sen. Tom Cotton is most likely referring to as "mass mail-in voting," is a system of sending every registered voter (an important distinction from "everyone") a ballot without a request. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, Washington and Oregon were already vote-by-mail states. But now California, Nevada and Vermont will also automatically send ballots to registered voters, while still having in-person options.

Vote-by-mail states send the ballot to the address on file in the voter registration database; the address was verified during the registration process. For example, in Colorado the ballot will be "sent to the mailing address you provided for your voter registration file." It's the voters' responsibility to update their address if they move.

These vote-by-mail states usually have the cleanest voter files because they interact with voters so regularly, according to Audrey Kline, the national policy director at the National Vote at Home Institute. Even if a ballot gets sent to the wrong address, it's most likely due to voter inaction rather than fraud.

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"It's not like my ballot is going to end up in another city randomly," she wrote in an email. "Errors usually center around people not updating their voter registration before a ballot is mailed. So if you move and don't tell your clerk, you ballot could arrive at your old address. This in and of itself isn't usually a huge issue — they are non-forwardable and get sent back to the clerk." If someone does gets the wrong ballot mailed to them and then tries to impersonate that voter, that fraud is detectable by signature matching and other security policies.

"The fact is that mail ballot fraud on the scale that people are warning of is just not practical or economical," Kline said. "People say 'ripe for fraud' because nobody has figured out how to do it on a large scale, but they think it's still possible and are trying to keep the argument alive."

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted that, unlike Florida, Nevada is incapable of managing a vote-by-mail election.

Claim: Nevada has no mail-in ballot infrastructure. Fact check: False

The Nevada Legislature passed a bill, signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday, that will send a mail-in ballot to every active registered voter in the state. Trump has voiced opposition to this bill and claimed the state lacks the infrastructure for running such an election. And the Trump campaign launched a lawsuit on Wednesday against Nevada to prevent this measure from going into effect for the election.

But Nevada does have infrastructure in place for mail-in voting. The June primary was held almost entirely through mail-in voting. Over 98 percent of the 491,654 ballots cast in the primary were submitted through mail-in voting, and the election saw very high voter turnout. Additionally, over 10,000 primary ballots were rejected because they were incorrectly submitted, demonstrating the states ability to weed out improper ballots. Through the CARES Act, Nevada received $4,500,000 to help pay for the cost of setting up infrastructure and hiring personnel to count mail-in ballots.

Claim: Coronavirus relief package includes nearly $2 billion for new FBI headquarters. Fact check: True

A GOP-proposed, roughly $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes nearly $2 billion for a new FBI headquarters.

The new headquarters has been in the works for over a decade. Proponents of the funding say that the FBI has been helpful in fighting increased crime due to Covid-19 and cyber breaches against new vaccines. But opponents say the funding is not directly related to Covid-19 and that the Trump administration has something to gain by keeping the headquarters in downtown Washington, near a Trump hotel, rather than it's proposed move to a suburb of Maryland or Virginia.

And many Senate Republicans have uncharacteristically parted with the Trump administration to rebuke the request.

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