On this blog, I cite and link to a wide variety of opinion and research, mostly because I’m sharing information I consider interesting, factual and important. It is much rarer to come across information that is both illuminating and practical– useful.
Bouie began with a prediction that won’t surprise anyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the past four years: if the first returns on election night show him even slightly ahead, Trump will declare victory and have his minions doing everything they can to stymie the counting of additional, mail-in ballots. (In 2018, as the results of absentee ballots came in, the Democrats’ advantage grew substantially–what had looked like an anemic victory turned into a blue wave.) Recent research confirms that–for reasons that remain obscure–later counted votes have routinely benefitted Democrats.
If Trump is leading on election night, in other words, there’s a good chance he’ll try to disrupt and delegitimize the counting process. That way, if Joe Biden pulls ahead in the days (or weeks) after voting ends — if we experience a “blue shift” like the one in 2018, in which the Democratic majority in the House grew as votes came in — the president will have given himself grounds to reject the outcome as “fake news.”
Unlike the pundits who simply point out the ways in which disaster might strike in November, however, Bouie proposes a remedy; he tells us what we can do to avoid that disaster.
The only way to prevent this scenario, or at least, rob it of the oxygen it needs to burn, is to deliver an election night lead to Biden. This means voting in person. No, not everyone will be able to do that. But if you plan to vote against Trump and can take appropriate precautions, then some kind of hand delivery — going to the polls or bringing your mail-in ballot to a “drop box” — will be the best way to protect your vote from the president’s concerted attempt to undermine the election for his benefit.
Here in Indiana, our Republican Governor and Secretary of State have thus far refused to allow no-excuse absentee voting. But thanks to previous lawsuits brought by Common Cause, we have a reasonable number of satellite voting locations, and we have 28 days of early voting. My husband and I had already decided that we would “mask up” and (as usual) vote early in person.
As Bouie reports, and we all know, Trump is increasingly desperate to hold on to power. If the polls are even close to correct, he probably can’t win a fair fight.
His solution, then, is to do everything in his power to hinder the opposition and either win an Electoral College majority or claim victory before all the votes have been counted.
A key element of Trump’s strategy is to undermine the Postal Service’s ability to deliver and collect mail. The president’s postmaster general has removed experienced officials, implemented cuts and raised postage rates for ballots mailed to voters, increasing the cost if states want the post office to prioritize election mail. And Politico reports that Trump’s aides and advisers in the White House have been searching for ways to curb mail-in voting through executive action, “from directing the Postal Service to not deliver certain ballots to stopping local officials from counting them after Election Day.”
The polls also reflect a huge partisan split on the issue of mail-in voting, with 54 percent of Biden supporters preferring mail compared to only 17 percent of Trump supporters. If those percentages are reflected in the early returns, Bouie’s election-night scenario becomes terrifyingly possible.
The best defense for the president’s political opponents is, if possible, to vote in person. For some, this will mean going to the polls in November, in the middle of flu season, when the spread of Covid-19 may worsen. In most states, however, there are multiple ways to cast or hand in a ballot. Every state offers some form of early or absentee voting, and 33 states — including swing states like Arizona and Wisconsin — allow absentee voting without an excuse. Trump supports absentee voting — it’s how his older supporters in Florida vote — and his opponents should take advantage of the fact that those systems won’t be under the same kind of attack. Many vote-by-mail states also offer drop boxes so that voters can deliver ballots directly to the registrar. And if you must mail in your ballot, the best practice would be to post it as early as possible, to account for potential delays.
The best possible outcome would be a massive election-night repudiation of Trump and his enablers–so massive that it leaves no room for doubt that the majority of Americans want to begin the hard work of repairing the incalculable damage done to both our institutions and Americans’ self-respect.