Voter turnout threatens Trump and his chances for reelection
A president who evidently sees widespread voter turnout as a threat to his reelection, Trump threatened to use executive action to curtail mail-in votes and is prepping to declare any election where such ballots play a significant role, and where he loses, as illegitimate.
The U.S. Postal Service will be the linchpin of a successful 2020 presidential election, particularly now with broader vote-by-mail procedures in place allowing nearly 180 million Americans, or at least 76% of the electorate, to cast ballots from home.
Postal workers process more than 425 million pieces of mail a day, and they already provide priority sorting to mailed ballots, so there’s little doubt they can handle expanded mail-in voting. The only question is how fast. Stricken with its own COVID-19 casualties (75 dead, 8,100 infected and 44,000 quarantined), the Postal Service is short on manpower and losing cash from a downturn in first-class mail.
New postmaster general Trump has called the service a “joke” and wants it privatized. A new postmaster general, fervent Trump supporter and megadonor Louis DeJoy, has frozen hiring, reduced overtime and curtailed transportation — steps workers say is slowing mail delivery.
It doesn’t have to be. There are steps state and local election officials, the Postal Service and voters can take to make each vote count: States that recently have expanded access to mail-in voting can ensure that ballots postmarked on Election Day, rather than simply received that day or before, are counted.
And they can work with local postal officials to make sure prepaid postage envelopes provided by the state receive those postmarks. (In some regions, that doesn’t happen, which is one possible explanation for the lost ballots in New York primaries.)
They also can start processing mailed ballots before and early on Election Day, so votes can be swiftly tallied after polls close. States can increase the number of drop boxes for absentee ballots for voters who run out of time to mail them. Colorado has voted by mail for six years and now has drive-up locations.
And states (nearly two dozen are guilty of this) should refrain from sending out absentee voting applications just days before an election, a recipe for ballots arriving too late to count.
The Postal Service under DeJoy has promised to deliver mailed ballots on time this election. But workers say the new postmaster general’s cutbacks have meant bags of mail are left waiting a day before being sorted and delivered. Belt-tightening is one thing, but DeJoy should suspend his cost-cutting at least the week leading up to the election to guard against last minute bottlenecks.
Voters not only need to carefully follow directions for filling out and signing absentee ballots, but they also need to request those ballots as soon as possible and return them just as quickly.
Congress needs to play its part in passing a stimulus bill that includes, as a tiny fraction of the overall cost, $25 billion in additional funding for the Postal Service and $3.6 billion in election assistance for the states.
And President Trump needs to sign that bill.
Lastly, voters need to be patient come Election Day. They may not know the presidential winner for a matter of days. The voting process this time will almost certainly be messy — long lines, lost ballots and lawsuits aplenty (in addition to dozens already filed). All the more reason to vote early by mail.