As the polls get grimmer for Trump and the GOP, the party’s efforts to sabotage November’s election get more frantic.
Trump has especially attacked efforts to expand vote-by-mail, in the face of a pandemic that has not only made voters fearful, but made it nearly impossible for election officials to find people willing to staff voting centers. It isn’t just threats and tantrums; the Washington Post reported on his installation of another crony as Postmaster General.
A top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee will be named the new head of the Postal Service, putting a top ally of the president in charge of an agency where Trump has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business.
The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general.
Trump had already been carrying on a vendetta against the Postal Service as part of his grudge match against Jeff Bezos; he is convinced that Bezos is “getting a deal” on the delivery of Amazon packages. His fear of vote-by-mail has ramped up his antagonism considerably.
Despite the wild allegations, voting by mail has been widely used in U.S. elections for many years and previously had widespread support from both parties. A recent Brennan Center poll found that four out of five Americans think that all voters should have a mail ballot option for Election Day, including 57 percent of Republicans. Every state allows at least some of its voters to cast mail-in ballots, and most states allow all voters to cast mail-in ballots. (And as many people have pointed out, Trump himself votes by mail.)
Nevertheless, Trump has ramped up its rhetoric, characterizing mail-in ballots as fraudulent, and expansion of the option as a way to “rig” the election. (Ironically, those attacks seem to be convincing mainly Republican voters–leading GOP operatives to worry that it will hurt their own turnout efforts.)
Paul Waldman recently pointed out that GOP efforts at vote suppression aren’t limited to the party’s frenzied assault on vote-by-mail.
Voter suppression is at the very heart of Republican electoral strategy, and, as the New York Times reports Monday, they plan to go all-out in November:
The Republican program, which has gained steam in recent weeks, envisions recruiting up to 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to monitor polling places and challenge ballots and voters deemed suspicious. That is part of a $20 million plan that also allots millions to challenge lawsuits by Democrats and voting-rights advocates seeking to loosen state restrictions on balloting. The party and its allies also intend to use advertising, the internet and President Trump’s command of the airwaves to cast Democrats as agents of election theft.
The efforts are bolstered by a 2018 federal court ruling that for the first time in nearly four decades allows the national Republican Party to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. The court ban on Republican Party voter-fraud operations was imposed in 1982, and then modified in 1986 and again in 1990, each time after courts found instances of Republicans intimidating or working to exclude minority voters in the name of preventing fraud. The party was found to have violated it yet again in 2004.
Waldman notes that, for Republicans, “Voters deemed suspicious” is shorthand for “black people, Latinos, students, black people, and also black people.”
He also reminds readers of what happened in Wisconsin, when Republicans stymied efforts to postpone a primary during the initial spike of COVID-19 cases. The effort backfired. Voters were pissed off enough to stand in long lines and literally risk their lives to cast a ballot.
The lesson Waldman takes from that election is that, the more attention is given to GOP voter suppression efforts– the more voter suppression itself becomes a campaign issue– the more likely it will be to boost turnout among Democrats.
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