Monday, August 31, 2020

How to Counter Trump's Mail-in Ballot Voter Suppression

The fact that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is protected by the Constitution has not deterred the Trump administration from  slowing mail delivery to undermine a free and fair general election.  Efforts to slow mail delivery began shortly after Trump appointed Louis DeJoy to run the USPS. DeJoy is one of Trump's major donors and within weeks of being on the job he began removing sorting machines and eliminating overtime. This has slowed down the mail and caused the USPS to warn  at least 40 states that their mail-in ballot deadlines conflict with the service's ability to deliver ballots on time.  The Trump appointed bipartisan board of governors who run USPS have called for a $25 billion cash infusion for USPS. However, efforts in the House to provide these funds have been rejected by the president. 

Trump has repeatedly stated that mail-in voting lends itself to fraud. He ignores both security measures and a number of studies that conclusively demonstrate that this is exceedingly rare in the U.S. This has led many to conclude that these allegation are little more than a pretext for a brazen attempt to suppress the vote to gain an advantage in the forthcoming general election.  At the DNC president Obama warned:

"Do not let them take away your power. Don't let them take away your democracy. Make a plan right now for how you're going to get involved and vote. Do it as early as you can and tell your family and friends how they can vote too. Do what Americans have done for over two centuries when faced with even tougher times than this -- all those quiet heroes who found the courage to keep marching, keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice."

More than twelve state attorney generals (Washington state, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin) are taking the Trump administration to court to try to prevent him from undermining people's right to vote. A separate lawsuit was filed by Pennsylvania and California. There have been protests at the home of the Postmaster General and DeJoy was forced to appear before the House and the Senate.

Combating Trump's voter suppression is largely in the hands of states as they generally hold the power to determine their own manner of voting, including mail-in ballots. All states allow at least some voting by mail, but it is more accessible in some states than others.  According to the New York Times there are a total of 27 states and Washington, D.C., that have expanded mail-in ballots for the 2020 general election.  Some counties in states with stricter rules have made it easier to vote by mail.  However, voters in Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Indiana, and New York, need a reason other than COVID-19 to vote absentee. That means many voters in these states will need to vote in person at a polling place.

Trump has succeeded in slowing down the USPS, however, in 44 states you can increase the likelihood that your vote is counted by following these 4 steps:

1. Register to vote
2. Request a mail-in ballot
3. Deliver your ballot to a drop off site on or before November 3
4. Vote early and track your vote online

Register to vote


Go to Vote.org to find out if you are registered to vote (and learn how to register if you are not).  If you are not registered you can register by clicking here.  In California, Colorado, Connecticut,   Delaware,  Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. every registered voter will be mailed a ballot ahead of the election or an application to request an absentee ballot. California, D.C. and Vermont are doing this for the first time in 2020. In 25 states, voters will need to procure an application for an absentee ballot themselves.

Request a mail-in ballot


The first thing prospective voters must do is apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot.  In 34 states, voters can cite the coronavirus as a reason to vote absentee or they can cast absentee ballots without specifying a reason.  As reviewed above some states are sending absentee ballots or applications to all registered voters automatically, but many are not.  If you live in a state which does not automatically send out absentee ballots click here to request such a ballot. Check the rules in your state.  After you receive your ballot complete and sign it then follow the steps below.  

Deliver your ballot to drop boxes


In many states voters can circumvent Trump's slowdown of the USPS by using drop boxes. Its faster than mail-in and safer than voting in person. In some states these votes may be tabulated ahead of Election Day (check the policy in your state).

To find the ballot drop-off location closest to you do an online search for "DROP OFF BALLOT LOCATION" for your state. You can also search for your state supervisor of elections. Deliver your ballot to an official drop-off location on or before November 3.

States that are using drop boxes include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin, and perhaps Florida. Despite having no evidence to support their allegations of fraud, Trump and Republicans are challenging these drop boxes in court, in state legislatures and in the court of public opinion.

Vote Early and track your vote online


Several states have sought to extend the deadlines to give more time to receive and count mail-in ballots.  However, the GOP is petitioning the courts to try to kill these efforts.  So make sure your ballot is submitted on or before November 3.

To increase the chances that your vote is counted vote as early as the rules in your state allow. In some states this can occur as much as 46 days before the general election (Friday, September 18, 2020). Click here to see the state by state calendar of early voting.

California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado have systems that can track your ballot just like tracking a package.  Find out if there is a way you can track your ballot in your state.  Click here to find out more about absentee voting rules in your state. 

Related
Democrats Preparing to Fight for Voter Rights
Voter Suppression and Resistance to Republican Efforts to Subvert Democracy

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