By Charles A. Rubin
The November Election is in Jeopardy and Trump is the Problem
In less than 100 days, Americans will be voting in what is arguably the most important election in our lifetimes. The continuing and potentially worsening COVID-19 pandemic is adding a unique complication to a process that is already plagued with technical and political challenges. The clear alternative to in-person balloting would be vote-by-mail, a “technology” that has been used without fraud or controversy since the Civil War.
President Trump, however, is using his bully pulpit to undermine the process before it has a chance to gain public acceptance. A tweet on May 26, 2020 unequivocally stated:
There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..
….living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!
Without offering any alternative, the President is working feverishly to undermine the best chance for the greatest number of people to vote in November.
The November elections bring into sharp relief a number of logistical problems that are exacerbated by the pandemic. The first issue is that the number of polling places will be significantly reduced because of a lack of personnel to staff them. Election workers tend to skew to older retired people who will shy away from a situation where they need to come face-to-face with a large number of people. Voters, in turn, will balk at travelling longer distances to the remaining polling stations for fear of the long waits that they will likely find there and also entering public places in which social distancing may be difficult.
The President has backed up his rhetoric of vote-by-mail bashing by threatening to cut federal funding to Michigan, Nevada and other states that have been proactively sending out vote-by-mail forms and falsely claiming that the states were sending “illegal” absentee ballots to voters.
Technology won’t save us either. Recent primary elections in Georgia, Texas and Iowa have been marred by breakdowns in their new electronic voting machines further undermining voter confidence.
Vote-by-mail is not without problems either. The primary election in New York demonstrated that it could take weeks to declare the winners in several key races.
We are an electorate that is accustomed to rapid results in our elections, particularly the Presidential race. The process of counting absentee ballots will be slow and add to Trump’s inevitable claims that the election has been “rigged”. The right thing to do now would be to embrace vote-by-mail and adjust the expectation that we may need to wait some time for the results to be final. We need to express faith in our local officials to conduct honest and fair elections and build the safeguards and oversight to ensure that they are.
President Trump needs to demonstrate his faith in the American people and our local election officials so that we can rise to the challenge of this momentous election. His preemptive dismissal of vote-by-mail is nothing other than an attempt at voter suppression.
- The National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC) has built the only bipartisan movement in defense of election security. They are educating, mobilizing, and moving the agenda for significant policy reform.
- Let America Vote is fighting voter suppression nationwide
- The National Conference of State Legislatures has published a guide for states that would like to explore all mail elections.
- Vote.org is the largest 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan voting registration and get out the vote (GOTV) technology platform in America