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  • Jan Flynn

Could You Be Disenfranchised?

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The war on vote-by-mail

I tried, I really tried, to aim away from politics this week. But with the step-up in the attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, writing about anything else just felt like setting a nice table while the house is on fire. But one thing this week has confirmed: when it comes to gold-plated, neon-lit hypocrisy, you can’t trump Trump.

The Current Occupant may not be able to pronounce Yosemite (to be fair, he doesn’t spend a lot of time in California these days; maybe he thought Yo-Semite is a Jewish summer camp), but when it comes to duplicity, he’s your guy.

On August 13, the Projector in Chief came out, tiny fists raised, to attack mail balloting yet again. In recent weeks, throwing around claims about vote-by-mail that are equally furious and spurious has become one of his preferred pastimes.

Mail-in voting, he assured reporters in a White House press briefing, will result in “the greatest rigged election in history” and “the greatest fraud ever perpetrated.” On the same day, he clarified his reasons for wanting to block funding for the U.S. Postal Service:

Millions of ballots, that is, which would allow millions of Americans to cast their votes in a manner that would be timely, accessible, and safe during a pandemic — and arguably even less susceptible to fraud than in-person voting. And voter fraud in the U.S. is, as multiple studies have shown, rare — a non-problem.

But here’s the real kicker

On the same day that Trump was bloviating about fraudulent mail ballots, the Current Occupant and the Third Lady’s votes for Tuesday’s primary election in Florida were on their way to Mar-a-Lago — via mail. Kinda takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

He’s voted by mail at least twice before, in Florida and New York, and that doesn’t include the time in 2017 when he tried to vote absentee in New York’s mayoral election but put the wrong birth date on his ballot form. At least he remembered to sign it and mail it — details overlooked by Melania, Ivanka and Jared Kushner in the same election.

That’s why it’s Donald who’s in charge of the family.

How this works in Trump-think

It’s really very simple. All you need to be able to do is to hold two mutually exclusive ideas at the same time and with equal fervor. For instance, you’re supposed to believe that mail-in voting is bad, but absentee voting is fine. This in spite of the reality that there is no practical distinction between the two. On July 13, CNN’s Marshal Cohen published a fact-check of Trump’s doublespeak assertion, in which he quoted David Becker, founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research. Mr. Becker said:

No-excuse mail voting or absentee voting — whatever you call it — is essentially the same thing . . . You request a ballot, you get a ballot, you vote, you send it in, and there are protections in place. It doesn’t matter whether you call it mail voting or absentee voting. It’s the same thing.

But never mind that. Fearful Leader also needs you to understand that, while mail balloting is guaranteed to be fraudulent and rigged, it’s absolutely safe in Florida. His reasoning is perfectly clear, as quoted in the Washington Post on August 5:

Trump: So Florida has got a great Republican governor, and it had a great Republican governor. Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott, two great governors. And over a long period of time, they’ve been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida is different from other states.

Actually, by credible accounts, Florida’s mail-in balloting system does work well. So do the systems in many other states that use similar practices, including those run by Democrats. But Florida is a state that Trump desperately needs if he has any hope of reelection. And it’s full of elderly Republicans who might not show up at the polls and expose themselves to COVID-19, even on his behalf.

So Florida’s different. I’m glad we cleared that up.

How to combat mail-in voting? Destroy the postal service

Trump’s disdain for the US postal system, one of the nation’s oldest and most essential institutions — and one that has remained steadfastly nonpartisan since it was first established by Benjamin Franklin in 1775 — is nothing new. During his term, he’s derided the USPS as “a joke” and “a delivery boy for Amazon.” But with his numbers nosediving in the polls and his approval rating bottoming out, he’s terrified at the prospect of a big turnout in November, which is much more likely if people are allowed to vote by mail.

One of the few honest remarks he’s made came at the end of his April 8 tweet attacking mail-in voting, when he noted “. . . for whatever reason (it) doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

And now his attacks are escalating and becoming dangerous. Besides his relentless, fact-free bashing and his attempts to defund the postal service —entirely and admittedly to hamstring its ability to send and process ballots, see above — he’s unleashed a cynical salvo with the June 15 appointment of Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General.

DeJoy is a top GOP donor and Trump enthusiast who also holds at least $30 million in stock in XPO Logistics, a USPS contractor. Conflicts of interest, anyone? And barely two months into the job, DeJoy is certainly making his mark. In July, he eliminated overtime pay for postal workers, directing them to leave undelivered mail to wait until later. It’s already led to delays in delivery for essential items like prescription medications, including those for veterans reliant on the VA health system.

DeJoy has let state election officials know that if they want ballots to arrive on time they’ll have to pay the first-class rate, roughly 300% more than the bulk rate used up until now. And in a move so bald-faced it’s stunning, under his direction mail-sorting machines are being removed from postal facilities throughout the country — with no explanation forthcoming.

An August 13 piece in Motherboard quotes Kimberly Karol, the President of the Iowa Postal Workers Union: “I’m not sure you’re going to find an answer for why [the machines being removed] makes sense . . . because we haven’t figured that out either.”

So your guess is as good as mine. But I’ll bet you can guess what I’m guessing.

Prepare to fight for your right to vote

Not with guns or swords, but with your voice, your time, your effort, and your energy. I know we’re all exhausted by the pandemic and the campaign and the miserable state of the nation, but this is a time when we really have to step up. We need to let our elected officials know that we insist on our access to a fair, free, and accessible election and that we won’t put up with obstacles engineered to keep us from casting our ballots, or from having those ballots counted.

If we’re in a state that has a mail ballot system, we need to make sure our ballots are sent in as early as possible to get around the delays thrown up by DeJoy and Trump’s other minions. And if we have to, we need to be prepared to mask up and arrive in person at the polling booth, and wait in line for however long it takes. We have to be willing to stand up to the poll monitors that the Republicans are training to challenge ballots and voters in key states.

This is how high the stakes are

Make no mistake: your ability to vote in a free and fair election is under direct attack. If we lose that, if we allow this election to be subverted by either intimidation in the form of Republican-cultivated and funded poll monitors, or by the purposeful erosion of the postal system, or by the kind of voter-suppression machinations we saw earlier this year in Wisconsin and Georgia, then our votes in future elections will be meaningless, and calling ourselves a democracy will be nothing more than an Orwellian euphemism.

This is so serious and so critical that even I can’t be sarcastic about it. People before us have fought and died for our right to vote. Let’s not let them down, and let’s not allow Trump to dishonor them.

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