Donald Trump has declared voting by mail fraudulent and corrupt. He has no evidence, but he doesn't need proof when he has “instinct," and his instincts say he's just a one-term nightmare but only if people can actually vote. Republicans might've wished he wasn't so “old man yells at cloud" about it, but they have long opposed anything that makes voting easier. When turnout is high, they lose elections, so they prefer to keep turnout low. It's simple voter suppression arithmetic.

Laurence H. Tribe, Jennifer Taub, and Joshua A. Geltzer break down for The Atlantic what they call Trump's “three-pronged attack" against free and fair elections. The first step is slowing down mail service while simultaneously casting doubt on the legitimacy of voting by mail, which Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have done for years now without incident.

Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major Trump ally and donor, has instituted “cost-saving" policies that have slowed down the mail. Friday, DeJoy reassigned or “displaced" 23 postal executives and centralized power around himself. This seems corrupt but it's also classic corporate maneuvering. It's admittedly hard to tell the difference. Republicans resent the post office because it's a public good that has offered Americans (especially minorities) decent jobs at living wages.

So, it's a two-fer for Trump that sabotaging the post office could help him rig the election in his favor. If the mail is slow, ballots postmarked well in advance might not arrive by Election Day. Although they would technically still count, Trump wants to sow chaos and insist whoever is ahead in key states on Election Day is the winner. Stopping the vote worked for George W. Bush with a Supreme Court assist in 2000.

Former House peaker and perpetual coward Paul Ryan expressed shock and alarm that Democrats won races in 2018 because vote were counted after Election Day. He preferred when the Republican was winning with five percent of precincts reporting.

RYAN: We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race.

Counting all the votes is downright un-American. Besides, it's called Election Day not Election Fall Semester.

David Dayen at the American Prospect reported that the postal service has “informed states that they'll need to pay first-class 55-cent postage to mail ballots to voters, rather than the normal 20-cent bulk rate. That nearly triples the per-ballot cost at a time when tens of millions more will be delivered."

That's awful as a general matter of policy, but it's obscene during a pandemic. Trump is doing all he can to force Americans to choose between their health and their right to vote. People will die to vote him out of office, and while that's heroic, it shouldn't have to happen.

If there are a significant number of uncounted votes on Election Day, which we could reasonably expect given that some close races in 2018 took weeks to call, Tribe, Taub, and Geltzer envision a scenario where Trump urges Republicans — known for their hearty spines and devotion to fair play — to declare the entire election “failed." Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states where Joe Biden is leading (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) could ignore the popular vote by claiming they don't know what it actually is. They would then select an Electoral College slate that favors Trump. He didn't win the national popular vote in 2016. This time he might not even win the popular vote in specific swing states. But he will exploit every legal loophole so that he can stay in office.

From The Atlantic:

Trump may additionally think his hand is strengthened by another federal law that tells Congress to respect each state's final resolution of ballot disputes if made by December 8. This date may well be too soon for all mail-in ballots to be counted when the pandemic is sure to increase the number of such ballots cast. But that provision is a mere "safe harbor": It doesn't require that states resolve ballot disputes by December 8. The only statutory deadline for a state to send its tally is December 23, and the only deadline for receiving a state's tally—the true constitutional deadline—is January 6, when Congress meets in special session to certify the election results. So there's no excuse for a state to call its election a failure or for Congress to disregard the results so long as they're resolved ideally by December 23 but ultimately no later than January 6—not December 8.

Trump is at his core no different from just "re-elected" authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko in Belarus, who's been in office since 1994. It's not a stretch to suggest Trump would cheat to win or prioritize his personal and political interests over the well-being of others. Remember why he was impeached.

Tribe, Taub, and Geltzer are right that states should pass statutes "making clear that vote-counting must be done not by December 8, but by January 6—and ideally by December 23." States should also honor all votes postmarked before on on November 3 in the official tally. But perhaps the best defense against Trump's tactics would be starting the mail-in and early-voting process as soon as possible. This will give states time to count the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots.

States should also start screaming from the rafters right now that they intend to count all the votes. We should expect that Fox News will have the mail-in voter fraud propaganda machine cranked to 11.

If we get a jump on the issue, recognizing the naked corruption we're facing from likely most Republicans, not just Trump, we can still prevail. Then President Biden can replace the postmaster with someone who won't delay medication for old people just so he can deliver a second term for his criminal president.

There are 85 days until the presidential election. We knew Trump wouldn't go without a fight, but we've still got plenty of fight left in us.

[Politico / The Atlantic]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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