In a stunningly anti-democratic attempt to rig the 2020 presidential election, which polls show he is losing badly, president Donald Trump now goes after the U.S. Postal Service, the primary delivery-system for mail-in ballots. In a deadly pandemic, mail-in ballots rather than in-person voting is much the safer way to cast one’s vote. Presumably, the public welfare is top-of-mind for any American president.
But with polls showing him losing by double digits to Democrat Joe Biden, Trump must double-down on his anti-democratic methods, fie on the public welfare. The man who rails about rigged elections is now reaching deep into the voting system and doing the rigging himself. Not for Trump to make his argument on the merits; he must play with the mechanics and semantics and resort to outright and blatant chicanery.
What is this but the move of a proto-autocrat?
How does a proto-autocrat rig an election? First, bad-mouth the validity of mail-in voting as rife with fraud (ballot-stuffing, dead people voting, etc.), which Trump has been doing for months now — to some effect: Experts worry about declining voter confidence in the voting system (also here). Next: Have installed as your Postmaster General a political crony and campaign “megadonor” who, immediately upon installation, announces major “cost-cutting” measures across the USPS — sorting machines deactivated, corner mailboxes removed, no overtime (also here and here).
The fact that these major cuts happen just before a major presidential election — when, with historic voter participation expected, sorting machines and corner mailboxes and overtime would be crucial — is, per a proto-autocrat, immaterial.
Voters not equipped with a criminal mind or a narcissistic personality-that-must- win-at-any-cost are left, understandably, stunned at these blatant moves. This is robbery conducted in broad daylight, with the spotlights on and cameras rolling.
What’s a voter to do? Let’s skip further analyses or polemics and go to our own mechanics. Three (3) things we can do are:
1. Vote early.
2. Vote early.
3. Vote early.
In this presidential election whose very viability is threatened by the President himself — the USPS itself now warns delivery could be hampered in as many as 46 states — experts advise the voter to cast his/her ballot as early as possible. Voting and mailing early will better ensure your ballot is received by the USPS, delivered to the proper county election office, and counted. The hashtag #VoteByOct22 is trending on Twitter to encourage early voting.
Depending on the state where you live, you either already vote by mail-in ballot (as we do here in Washington state) or you vote in person at a polling station. It’s the latter mode that, in a pandemic, is riskier, thus you need an absentee ballot, which you get by requesting it from your local election office — again, early. Side-step the USPS entirely and drop your completed ballot in a government drop-box.
And if you are not yet registered to vote, register now.
(Information on requesting absentee ballots in your state, and more, is below.)
(By the way, Mr. Trump: Mail-in voting here in Washington state works fine.)
Again, early action is key. The USPS’s problem is not funding, notwithstanding the headlines of Democrats fighting for additional USPS funding in the next pandemic relief package. The USPS’ challenge is the handling of the mail — the sorting, routing, delivery. Thus early mailing aids in its work-flow. (Christmas is more challenging for the USPS.)
As to readers objecting to my use of “proto-autocrat” for Trump: A national leader who sends storm-troopers into American cities to quell legal protesters, kidnap them, and bundle them into unmarked vehicles; a leader who won’t agree to abide by the election results; and who now is trying to hobble the USPS, is clearly a leader trying to extend his tenure, become president for life — in other words, he is an autocrat in the making.
Public outcry over this latest outrage of Trump’s — and it is strenuous — will continue; it bodes to be a messy election. Conservatives will continue their silence — and it is a damning silence. Once upon a time conservatives were about conserving our democratic institutions, and in protecting election sanctity, they have a singular opportunity to take a stand against Trump’s mail-tampering, defiantly like Martin Luther did — “Here I stand, I can do no other.” But, barring a miracle…..
It remains to us, We the People, to rescue the Republic — through the vote.
News flash: Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the U.S. House back next weekend from summer recess to take action on the USPS. And at least six state Attorneys General are forming a coalition to take legal action to protect the Postal Service. Good to see some institutional rescue effort.
This election, a referendum on this wretched and proto-autocratic president, really is the most important in our lifetime. The electoral obstacles Trump is throwing up — what surprise has he in store for October? — will require more from John Q. Public than the usual exercise of pulling a lever on Election Day.
The conscientious voter must take action before Election Day — way before. The conscientious voter is the one who votes early.
Resources for voters:
To find your state and learn how and when (time-frame) to request your absentee ballot, see the USA.GOV website. See also the websites of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. Vote Foundation.
To locate election drop-boxes in your area, see your county government website.
For info on how to register to vote or change your registration, see USA.GOV.
To find out more about in-person early voting in your state, see here.
For voter’s COVID-19 guidance from the USPS, see here.
Other resources include the League of Women Voters; Vote.org; the National Association of Secretaries of State (scroll down for COVID-19 guidance); and the Election Center of the National Association of Election Officials.