A Measured And Accurate Rebuttal

Richard Hasen– probably the pre-eminent American scholar of voting and elections–had a column in last week’s  New York Timesin which he patiently dismantled Trump’s barrage of criticisms of mail-in-voting.

Not that anyone who listens to or actually believes anything Trump says would be likely to read the Times. 

I have only one quibble with Hasen’s essay–his assertion that Trump’s relentless attacks on mail-in voting are part of a “strategy.” After watching Trump for nearly 4 years, it is my considered opinion that the development of a strategy–let alone adherence to it–is far beyond his capacities.

Be that as it may, Hasen says there are two possible reasons for the assault: to create an excuse in advance of a loss, or an effort to create chaos that will both drive down turnout and undermine the legitimacy of the election. Hasen “very much fears” that the latter is correct, and that Trump is laying the groundwork for contesting his loss in a close election.

You can’t say he isn’t giving it his all. As Hasen reports,

Mr. Trump has made at least 91 attacks on the integrity of voting so far this year (and more than 700 since 2012) and backed up his complaints about mail-in ballots with lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Iowa. He has repeatedly tweeted the unsupported claim that increased use of mail-in ballots in November, necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, will lead to voter fraud and a rigged election.

These attacks have been more than a little contradictory–evidencing Trump’s usual scattershot and illogical approach to most issues–and raising a not-insignificant possibility that they will end up hurting Republicans as much as–or even more than–the Democrats who are his targets.

The end game here is a bit curious because Republicans traditionally have relied on mail-in balloting to get out the vote, and there are already signs that Republican turnout might be hurt by his rantings. How else to explain the president seeking to distinguish between good “absentee” voting and bad “mail-in” balloting and urging Floridians to vote by mail? And how else to explain the president not only repeatedly voting by mail but using a third person — what Mr. Trump refers to as “ballot harvesting” — to deliver his own ballot to election officials in the Florida primary on Tuesday?

Hasen patiently explains why Trump’s claims of fraud are bogus (or as he phrases it, “unsupported by the evidence.”) Absentee ballot fraud is rare. There have been fewer than 500 prosecutions for such behavior over a 12 year period in which more than a billion ballots were cast, and Hasen tells us that they tended to involve small elections “when there wasn’t an active press looking for chicanery.”  (An observation that reinforces the importance of a robust local press…but that’s a subject for another day.) Furthermore, Hasen says that the relative rarity of cases shouldn’t surprise us, because states have all kinds of security measures in place. Those security measures go well beyond signature matching, to include ballot tracking and statements signed under penalty of perjury.

The real danger posed by this campaign of disinformation is in the event of close election results on November 3d.

A “blue shift” toward Democrats as later votes are counted is now a well-established phenomenon; as Democrats vote later, their ballots are counted later, leading to a good number of elections where Republican leads on election night turn into Democratic victories when the full and fair count ends.

Trump could claim, as he did in a 2018 U.S. Senate race in Florida, that later-counted ballots are fraudulent (a claim he abandoned when Rick Scott, a Republican, won the race). It could lead millions of his supporters to believe that Democrats stole the election, when in fact all that happened was that battleground states engaged in a close and careful count of ballots to ensure the election’s integrity.

To the extent that Trump has a “strategy,” my guess would be that this describes it. And after years of anti-government rhetoric, topped off by the in-your-face-illegality of this administration, Americans’ distrust of our institutions will feed those suspicions.

Vote early–and if at all possible, in person.

19 thoughts on “A Measured And Accurate Rebuttal

  1. Trump, in his normal scorched earth attack on one issue, is intent on destroying the entire United States Postal Services system which has worked for 245 years. The problems in recent years have been due to lack of funding; the same problem experienced by areas of government as well as corporations and small businesses. The same problem of lack of funds plagueing the majority of Americans who were struggling to survive long before this Pandemic hit. He is literally “Killing the Messenger” of this entire nation and other countries abroad.

    If his “strategy” is the destruction of his imagined enemies; he is so far successful. The House has passed the $25 BILLION funding bill which McConnell has ordered the Senate to ignore and enjoy their vacation and Trump will simply veto the bill if it miraculously should happen to reach his desk. Rebuttal of Trump’s officious view of mail-in votes, which he and his family and many members of this government must use due to separate work and residential locations, are moot. Trump excels at moot and coming out on top using that tactic is working as well in his government “job” as it has in his business practices for decades.

  2. It is virtually impossible to apply rationale to a psychopath. In the case of Trump, the only focus he has is about himself, his reelection and, wait for it… himself. His madness and infantile piques will burn down the whole village. Yes, it seems he is that unhinged.

    OF COURSE he is preparing to contest the election. Even if Biden wins in a landslide, he will scream “FRAUD” until the Marshalls drag his sorry ass out of the White House. In this case, Trump knows EXACTLY what he is doing.

    The only thing he does is look out for himself. Rick Wilson’s great book title, “Everything Trump Touches Dies” is coming to light more each day. He is now touching our most sacred democratic principle… and he is trying to kill it for the sake of his own madness.

  3. Before one is qualified to be a lawyer, one must study in a challenging academic environment among the very best and then after graduating, one must pass the bar exams. Many other professional fields hold in trust high standards for candidates to be certified and meet the test. Have we not learned the very hard way the past four years that we the American people would be better served if one aspires to be POTUS (or even Senator, Congressman, or Cabinet Secretary), to pass the “White House Exams” based on fundamental knowledge of the Constitution and argue persuasively our Bill of Rights? Too much to ask? Yea, yea, I know. Who gets to design and write the test? 😏

  4. Voter fraud is one of the rarest crimes committed in our country, and while it seems to be dominated by Republicans, the harshest penalty I have heard of was for Crystal Mason, a black woman who didn’t realize that as a released felon she didn’t have the right to vote. She got five years for casting a provisional ballot, while a woman who tried to vote twice for the orange menace got two years probation.

    What we seem to have is a stacked deck that nearly always favors Republicans. It is stacked right up to and including the Electoral College. If we don’t get a blue tsunami, we will have to fight tooth and nail for our Constitution and the rule of law for years to come.

  5. It’s quite comical that in 2020 we are encouraging “registered voters” to vote in person where an archaic process is used in each county/state handled by only a few ballot counting machine manufacturers to avoid corruption. Even though during the primaries in the past several years have shown significant exit poll discrepancies.

    Every voter should be registered to vote when they get their driver’s license. There should be a government-run website for voting. If we don’t vote in an election, our license is suspended, or we pay a penalty on our tax returns. The government should also have an encrypted voting app so we can cast our ballots on a smartphone.

    The mere fact that Trump is attacking snail mail to interfere with an election in 2020 should be the last red flag in a long series of red flags that our voting system is severely outdated.

    Once again, there is a reason our corrupted two-party political system wants to rely on decades-old technology to handle elections in this country. American Exceptionalism, huh?

    We are supposed to have a state of the art technology system in this country with all the high-tech geniuses. Still, when it comes to the foundational roots of our democracy, we are archaic, just like our educational model.

    There must be a lot of money behind the scenes greasing the wheels to keep these old systems in place (status quo). [RED FLAG]

  6. Norris – we have a test that could be used – that which immigrants take to become US citizens. I guarantee you that trump would not be able to pass a fraction of it. There aren’t any pictures of animals, to start with.

  7. Todd; I was always very proud to go to the polls to vote in person, loved the little “I Voted” sticker I received and posted it on my front door storm glass. Now at 83 and disabled; I greatly appreciate the Absentee Ballot, IF we get them for this election, but would rather be able to cast my vote proudly in person and get my “I Voted” sticker.

    My grandson moved from South Bend back to Indianapolis two years ago; when he filled out his Change of Address at the Post Office they asked if he wanted his voter registration also changed. Of course he did and they took care of it; another reason to protect the USPS from Trump, McConnell and DeJoy.

  8. Agree with you Todd. Once again, when we look at other industrial developed countries, they do FAR better than the “wealthiest country in the world.” Why??? Why, with all the technology, we pale against other countries in turnout and efficiency??? Is it intentional or a mistake ? Yes, it HAS to be an intentionally crap and difficult system. What other decent and rational explanation explains this????

  9. It is not only the unregistered who do not vote; it is also the registered who for one reason or another do not exercise their franchise. These people may register in a patriotic fit but as the years go by their patriotism wanes, especially with the effects of gerrymandering (what’s the use?) and incessant propaganda (both parties are corrupt etc.) To do: Outlaw gerrymandering via independent commissions and select candidates via stance on issues rather than insult and who can raise the most campaign money.

    As to Trump’s intellectual capacity under discussion today, and not that I am the brilliant one, but I have been through a law school and have passed three bars all after graduating from college with a degree in economics and I daresay from what I know of Trump that he would have had big problems with such demands on his time that would have allowed for little frivolity and lots of time in law libraries. He, of course, is ill; and though my three MD nephews warn me against self-diagnosis, I like to think I am not. End of contrast.

    At this stage (within sight of the most important election since 1860 and 1932) I think we best use our time and effort in winning, and winning bigly. As to issues, there are few up for discussion since Trump has no platform other than insult and threat with which to disagree. Apparently he thinks (or pretends to think) that he was elected God and can rule by executive fiat while ignoring the Constitution and rule of law. Thus the “issues” revolve around not substantive matters so much as issues with his approaches to their solution. We have relegated outselves essentially to procedure rather than substance, hardly portending a governing model.

    So after all is said and done, if ever, where as a practical matter are we with this existential election in view? We are in the land of crude arithmetic – turnout. Nothing is more important. The rubber meets the road November 3, and we need all hands on deck, including the uninterested though registered voters who may live next door. Knock on thier door and “interest” them. Grandmas, college students, the unemployed and everyone else within our orbit needs a pitch. Let’s give it to them.

  10. This could be a revealing week coming up for Election Day as the Trump family picnic gets air time, non-reality TV at it’s finest. I don’t plan to participate which makes me feel bad for not gathering intel on the country’s enemy but I also don’t want to grace the ratings in any way. The RNC has said they won’t change their platform from 2016 apparently because none of if got done despite their power stranglehold on democracy.

    With most of the cards on the table after that what’s next? I haven’t seen evidence of scheduled debates yet and I read that Biden is of a mind that showing up as the only one prepared to debate won’t change any minds which sounds roughly right to me. Let DJT debate via Twitter which as a one way street he considers an optimum ranting platform.

    So far no surprises. Trump is as unprepared to campaign as to be President. Joe and Kamala should just press forward appealing to those who don’t rely on screens for their opinions, only for info. The only thing new is that their transition strategy efforts now must include extensive planning and organizing to ensure all of our laws are followed by the opposition and means to evict as necessary those who challenge them.

  11. Trump isn’t the brightest bulb for sure. I’ve always called him willfully ignorant, narcissistic, and a sociopath (long before Mary Trump’s book came out). He simply has no interest in most things other than himself and his inflated ego, and disdains anyone who doesn’t bow down to his self perceived “greatness.”

    But Trump excels at one thing and one thing only: “The Big Con.” He learned well from his father and Roy Cohn, among others. Like most successful con men and scam artists, Trump seems to have a second sense about what will snag and draw in his intended “marks.” And, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s really good at it. I mean, come on, he’s successfully gotten away with it for 74 years! Hopefully that ends very soon.

    Here’s a list of the 7 (so called) Psychological Principles of Cons and Scams. See which ones you think Trump uses everyday? Distraction. Social Compliance. Herd principle. Dishonesty. Deception. Need and Greed. Time pressure. Need I say more?

    But, I’m not sure I entirely agree with Professor Kennedy’s belief that Trump is incapable of forming a “strategy.” All Trump has to do is come up with the initial lie or deception, i.e., the “con,” that he somehow innately knows will lure in his marks, i.e., “his base” (what an awful thought that he has a “base” of people who believe his every word or at least are willing to publicly claim he was only joking). For example, his use of the “birther” smear against Obama.

    Then he has people, just as depicted in all of the Hollywood Con artist movies, such as “The Sting,” “Oceans Eleven,” etc., like Mnuchin, Miller, Pompeo, etc., truly despicable people in their own right, to come up with the “strategy” or mechanics of how to actually carry out the con. For instance, it has been reported it was Mnuchin who basically came up with the ploy of destroying the USPS (which may or may not have backfired on him — the verdict is still out on that one in spite of Dejoy’s claims).

    At this point, we would be fools to underestimate Trump’s ability to carry out successful cons. Buckle Up! It’s going to be a scary and bumpy ride until Jan, 2021.

  12. David F. I agree exactly with your thoughts but in my opinion we are helpless at preventing DC corruption. Our hope for that must now be invested in Biden/Harris and the DNC not for hope along these lines but preparation and planning and organizing.

    What we learned in 2016 and since is that with Republican now no hold is bared. The campaign has to start with that assumption and imagine all of the holds that might be employed and come up with the means to counter them. All of them.

    We all wish that such was not necessary but the simple truth is that now it’s more essential than campaigning is.

  13. When Hasen says that Trump has a strategy, he means, of course, that he has a two-step plan – undermine the postal system and then later blame it for his election loss. Linking two separate events is such an extraordinary intellectual achievement for Transactional Trump that Hasen was momentarily flummoxed by such a monumental leap.

    By the way 500 bad ballots out of 1 billion is expressed by a “five” following six “zeros” to the right of the decimal point. No wonder Kris Kobach failed miserably in his Trump-inspired search for election fraud.

  14. Every single word that Todd wrote is THE ANSWER. I have banked online for years. My FAFSA is online, my taxes are online. My 84-year-old mom in law, banks online. Does anyone for 1 second think we couldn’t vote online? Look up Estonia.
    Yes, EVERYONE should be registered to vote. The drivers license idea is great. Its our 1 duty as citizens and its time everyone stepped up to the plate. People got dinged for not having insurance, why is voting different???

  15. While I agree with many comments on here, the notion that the Postal Service runs great and doesn’t need reform is not accurate. There is no reason in this day and age to deliver mail six days a week. And any business that is regularly paying its workers overtime, as the Postal Service does, has problems. The cost of postage has been increasing faster than the inflation rate for some time. But the need to run the Postal Service efficiently does not mean adopting reforms which are deliberately aimed at delaying or stopping mail-in ballots from being delivered.

  16. “There is no reason in this day and age to deliver mail six days a week. And any business that is regularly paying its workers overtime, as the Postal Service does, has problems.”

    On each of those six days a week, each carrier delivers a few thousand mail items. including packages, to a few hundred customers on each route. Due to a need to increase carriers, some are delivering two routes daily which requires overtime to get the mail out on time. Those six days a week the mail is delivered in dangerous heat and humidity, freezing cold, rain, sleet, snow and sometimes the “dark of night” and carriers must drive to their assigned route on unplowed and untreated streets during our winters and through or around flooded areas during heavy rains. They must make their way through some trash filled yards, around fences, over cracked sidewalks and driveways and be aware of dangerous dogs in too many cases. After a near attack by a loose dog while walking, another walker had dog spray to protect both of us. The end result was the dog being shot after attacking the police officer as he waited for Animal Control. My carrier gave me his can of dog spray; a few days later he was attacked and badly bitten by a dog tied on a front porch which he couldn’t see. That resulted in surgeries and missed work so a replacement carrier was needed for weeks.

    Earlier this summer one of the women carriers in my 46219 zip code area was shot and killed because she did not deliver mail to a completely fenced in yard with a known vicious dog loose almost every day. They are NOT required to deliver to any area deemed dangerous. Six years ago I was mugged, injured and robbed on my driveway; my first contact from the Prosecutor’s Office had the wrong address but the correct zip code, all mail is initially separated by zip code by those machines which are now missing. Because my carrier recognized my name and knew the importance of the mail from the Prosecutor’s Office, it was delivered to me. By the way, the letter began; “JoAnn Green, the above address is incorrect, please provide your correct address.” Three newscasters from local TV channels had the correct address as did the detective. Four years ago, during the last drastic winter storms which left deeply drifted snow everywhere, then froze in below zero temperatues, my carrier arrived around 8:30 p.m. wearing what looked like a miner’s hat with a light on the front to see addresses on the mail and on many of the houses. Driving the mail vehicle to be able to deliver her route was difficult and dangerous itself.

    The costs of running USPS has escalated just as the cost of everything has escalated for all of us; they are not tax supported and they are in a position of now needing funds from the government it serves to continue serving the nation and in other countries. The increase in postage, with the “Forever” stamps, has not been enough to cover increases of their operation. They sell money orders to pay bills, change voter registration when you put in a change of address and sell mail-related items in all post office locations where there are also inside and outside drop-off boxes for our convenience. The carriers show up each of those six days a week; which is more than you can say about our current Senate members. The problems with mail-in ballots seems to be once they have been delivered by the United States Postal Service, not with the delivery service. They have posted notices they will deliver ALL mail-in ballots no matter what amount of postage is on the ballot. Absentee Ballots are an “election season” issue; not year round.

  17. Sheila Kennedy,

    In the ( unlikely ) event of a close election….I’ve heard no mention of the FRANKEN POTUS with his packed-in-his-favor SCOTUS…remember W Bush and his win via his packed-in-his-favor SCOTUS….all of which would leave American citizens without a decent government for another four years…..which many of us would be left without the government of our preference.

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