All For Want Of A Chance to Vote

The November gauntlet awaits.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the Trump Administration is slowly preparing the United States Postal Service for sale to Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm. They’re removing the familiar blue and green mailboxes in many cities across the country, though they’re pausing in the western states until after the election. They’re removing more than a few mail sorting machines at distribution facilities. They’re restricting the fees that can be charged for letter and parcel handling. And they’re cutting overtime. It’s like they want to sell off the Postal Service to the lowest bidder before the election. It must be nice to know that one of your biggest fundraisers has got your back, Mr. President.

Donald Trump and the pandemic have prompted a huge debate over mail-in ballots. Most of us are aware that voting by mail relieves us of the burden of waiting in long lines to vote. I used to think that long lines were a feature exclusive to communist countries. I guess not. Voting by mail is far safer in the year of the pandemic than to wait in line, outside, in often cold weather, in early November. Achoo!

On the one hand, Trump blasts voting by mail. Fraud, fraud, fraud! He tells us that we need to see people at the polls telling us they are who they are. Trump kind of sounds like this: “Of course we want fair elections. We just don’t think we can get a fair election by mail. That’s why I won’t sign a bill that gives more money to the lame Postal Service! I don’t want people voting by mail! Pardon me while I sign this request for an absentee ballot.”

On the other hand, he has high praise for states that allow voting by mail as long as they’re Republican states. Not a word of praise for states that run all mail elections that just happen to have Democratic governors or statehouse majorities.

States have been closing polling places left and right for years before the pandemic, often without adequate public notice. At least now, with a pandemic raging across the country, closing polling places makes some sense, but only as long as voting by mail is allowed.

Now I learn that the Trump campaign has filed multiple lawsuits to prohibit ballot collection boxes like the one I used to vote in the last election. That box was right out front of city hall, with at least one camera pointed at it, and a steady stream of people driving up to drop off their ballots. Trump is really worried that voter fraud might just take place in broad daylight. At least one federal judge has ordered the Trump campaign to pony up proof of fraud or, “Hold my beer while I sign an order to dismiss”.

So I see the plan now. Trump would rather have us all go to vote at the polling places that have been consolidated into a few massive hives of COVID-19. Heck, they’re even talking about turning Dodger Stadium into a giant polling place. Some states have been cutting the number of early voting days where they see fit, probably under Trump’s direction. If Jared Kushner is taking time to talk with Kayne West out in Colorado, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the honchos of the Trump Administration lobbying states to cut early voting where it will count the most.

So you get to the end of the line, you wait a few hours to vote. You get to the machine and find that it’s an electronic voting machine with no paper record. A funny thing happened in the Democratic primaries this year. Bernie Sanders performed remarkably well where there were no voting machines. He did very well with voters living abroad who mailed their ballots in. No word on that from Trump. And he did remarkably well in the territories where they didn’t have voting machines, but that was before he dropped out. No word on that from Trump, either.

Ironically, President Trump has voted by mail in the recent past, and he’s requested an absentee ballot for an upcoming primary election. Riddles.

What do you call a country where only the wealthy decide who gets to vote? Trumpistan.

What do you call a country where only the wealthy decide who gets nominated to run for office? Tweedistan.

We live in both of those places. So on top of all of the barriers to voting, we have a conservative minority enforcing strict voter ID laws, voter crosschecks, and pushing court cases for a ruling that postage is not a poll tax. I’ve never paid postage to vote, ever, and I live in Utah. I’ve been voting by mail for a few years now and I love it. I voted for Bernie and he won the primary here by a landslide. I trust that my vote is counted, even when I vote by mail.

Another barrier to our vote is the walled garden set up by the wealthy to ensure that we have a very limited field of candidates to choose from. Unless they’re approved by the top 1%, progressive candidates usually don’t get past the primaries. Lately, there’s been significant progress on that front. Progressives have won 6 of 7 hotly contested primaries this year, dethroning entrenched incumbents from decades of comfort in a safe seat. That’s progress, but there is still a long way to go.

If you can vote early, do it. Get to the polling place and vote days or weeks early as permitted by your state or county. Make sure there is a paper record of your vote, too. If you can cast a ballot by hand at the polling place, that’s even better. Check with your county to see if voting by mail is permitted and vote by mail. A well-run election has all kinds of security in place to ensure that your vote is counted and that someone else will not vote in your place. Trump is apparently unaware that modern science has figured out how to weed out most if not all of the fraud, even if fraud is an infinitesimally small fraction of the vote, to begin with.

I have to wonder what my Republican Senators are thinking about Trump right about now. How do they respond to a man who is the de facto leader of their party and who has so many nuanced opinions about voting by mail? Well, they don’t have to worry about much, they have safe seats. That is true for most of Congress, too. Most seats are safe by design. That’s how you get things done in America.

Write on.

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