I voted Saturday. I responded to a universal mailing from the Secretary of State’s office, indicating I wanted a mail-in ballot. The pandemic has blunted my decades-long pleasure of going to the local polling place and participating with others in my community in one of the greatest gifts of living in a democracy. I filled out the form, and mailed it to our local election commission, which sent me the ballot, which I marked and dropped off at this ballot drop-off box. I could have mailed it in, but wanted the pleasure of accompanying it to City Hall. The Secretary of State’s office has a tracking system so voters can know where their ballots are in the process.
Only three percent of Massachusetts voters voted by mail in 2018. So far, this year, more people have asked for mail-in ballots than voted altogether that year. That’s thanks to the state legislature and Republican Governor Charlie Baker. Other states have done universal mail-in voting for years, with great success. Some states mail ballots directly to all voters; a comparable number require a reason for absentee voting; a majority have no-excuse-needed absentee voting for all. And that makes sense.
But this year, the President has declared war on mail-in voting, saying, wrongly, that there is widespread voter fraud. Republican Senator Mitt Romney is calling out the President on the falsehood. The Trumps, of course, vote by absentee ballots, but the President insists that’s different from everyone getting a form to request for an absentee ballot. But even with the states that simply mail ballots directly to voters, studies have shown there is no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Mail-in voting is not a partisan issue. According to The Brennan Center, eastern states have been slower than western, partly because of geography. The west is more spread out; the east is more densely populated.
Trump’s misleading assertions could undermine confidence in our electoral system and serve to suppress the vote. He is already saying it will be a rigged election, and has said he doesn’t know if he will accept the results. The potential scenarios are horrifying.
And just in case that the President’s false charges don’t undermine the vote enough, his administration is blatantly undercutting the U.S. Post Office, having his appointee Postmaster General (major Trump donor and former Republican National Committee Finance Chairman) Louis DeJoy slow down deliveries by cutting staff, reducing overtime and not getting fill-ins when workers are sick or on vacation. Last week, it started taking away mail boxes from Pennsylvania, Oregon, New York, California and Montana.
USPS even started taking hundreds of high-volume mail sorting machines out of the process. Public protest seems to have achieved a delay in further eliminations until after the election, but at least a dozen have already been removed from Massachusetts. John Flattery, President of Postal Workers Union Local 4553 told Jim Braude on WGBH-TV that, without these efforts to undermine, postal workers could get the job done. If they can handle the flood of Christmas mail, they can handle the mail-in ballots.
Never mind people waiting for prescriptions, pension checks, and other critically needed mail. DeJoy, by the way, reportedly has as much as $70 million worth of personal investments in competitors of the USPS. Another example of the blatant conflicts of interest that characterize the administration that ran in 2016 on a bogus pledge to “drain the swamp.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back into session this Saturday to take up a bill to provide an additional $25 billion to USPS to supplement the Post Office Budget. Trump has already dismissed this as a Democratic ploy to buoy up mail-in voting. And, on August 24th, DeJoy will testify before the House Oversight Committee. It’s about time that someone sought accountability in this outrageous undermining of the institution about which we grew up believing that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
If the House bill becomes law, some of that $25 billion should go to help local election workers, now faced with tallying votes by hand. Waiting for final results that may not be known for a week or more after the election is not necessarily nefarious. It could just mean that election officials are taking the time needed to get the results right. And we do know that paper ballots can be audited if there are any challenges.
This is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the precious right to vote. (Notably, white women were able to exercise that right decades before Black women.) Today, Donald Trump made a show of pardoning suffragette Susan B. Anthony who in 1872 was arrested for voting in violation of the law banning women from doing so. Spare me, please, from disgorging my lunch commenting on the hypocrisy of this man, given his reprehensible treatment of women, especially female candidates, his despicable effort to sabotage mail-in voting and undermine the democracy that Susan B. Anthony fought to expand.
If you haven’t already done so and your state provides for such, request an absentee ballot. Fill it out, and mail it in as soon as you can. Stay safe from the pandemic, and live to see the day when Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
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