Arizona was a test case for Donald Trump’s campaign strategy in 2020: use the slow counting of mail-in ballots to undermine and to contest the legitimacy of the election.
In 2018, 80% of Arizona voters received their ballots in the mail and voted early by mail. On election night, the first numbers you see reported is the early ballots verified and counted by county election officials by election day. Then the same-day vote at polling locations is added throughout the evening.
On election night, several Republicans led their races, but there was still a mountain of mail-in ballots not yet verified and counted by county election officials. That process took several weeks, and when all the ballots were counted, Democrats won several races that they trailed on election night.
This led Arizona Republicans and Donald Trump to immediately cry election fraud without any evidence. President Trump and Republicans Cry Voter Fraud as Arizona Democrats Gain Ground:
After a Democrat took the lead in the Arizona Senate race, President Trump joined local Republicans by raising the specter of voter fraud to argue that the election may be illegitimate.
Republican legislators and party officials in Arizona have floated the idea that Democrats are meddling in the election process. Trump, a frequent proponent of voter-fraud conspiracies, joined them on Friday, claiming that “electoral corruption” was taking place in Arizona, possibly requiring a new election.
Meanwhile, Arizona Republican Party county officials are suing to block several recorders from continuing to verify signatures on early ballots after polls have closed.
There was pushback from some Republicans. Amy Chan, former state elections director under Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett, tweeted, “Unfounded allegations of voter fraud are totally irresponsible and should rightly be condemned because they shake voter confidence & can affect future participation. Voter fraud in my experience is almost nonexistent.” Despite rampant claims, there is no evidence of voter fraud in Arizona.
The Arizona GOP launched an ‘audit’ of election practices by Maricopa County recorder. The result? State GOP audit finds irregularities, not illegalities in 2018 general election: “[T]his Review has no evidence that links these particularized instances of fraud and/or voting irregularities to a widespread, preconcerted plan by the Recorder or anyone within the Recorder’s Office.”
In short, numerous unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, but no evidence of actual voter fraud. This is the GOP “voter fraud” fraud we hear in every election.
Donald Trump intends to use the period between election day on November 3 and the December 8 Deadline for Resolving Election Disputes when all state recounts and court contests over presidential election results must be completed, ahead of the December 14 meeting of electors in the Electoral College, to undermine and to contest the legitimacy of the election. And he may resort to violence.
Trump is being transparent about this election strategy, which he also did in 2016 before his surprising win, and we were spared what he is planning to do this November. On Friday, Trump predicted this year will bring the ‘greatest election disaster in history’:
[T]he upcoming general election will be “the greatest election disaster in history.”
“This will be catastrophic for our nation. You’ll see it,” Trump asserted in a meeting at the White House with police groups. “I’m always right about things like this. I guess I must be, or I wouldn’t be sitting here,” he added.
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“Everyone knows mail-in ballots are a disaster,” Trump claimed. He reiterated his view that it’s imperative to find out who won the election on election night [there is a media pool projection on election night, not a vote total], as some election experts have indeed warned that a drastic surge in mail-in ballots might mean a close race isn’t called on the evening of Nov. 3.
Every sentient American understands that this is NOT how it works. There is not an “election day” per se, but almost a month of early voting before election day, and almost a month to count all of the ballots after election day. It is the certification of election results after the election that counts.
Due to the widespread practice of mail-in ballots, not just here in Arizona but in many other states for years, and other states now accommodating absentee (mail-in) voting to make voting safe during the coronavirus pandemic, At least 77% of American voters can cast ballots by mail in the fall:
The coronavirus pandemic is set to change the way millions of Americans can vote in November, as states expand access to mail-in voting as a safer alternative to in-person voting.
As of now, over 180 million Americans who are eligible to vote would be able to cast a ballot by mail. Of those, 24 million live in states that will accept fear of the coronavirus as an excuse to vote absentee, or have switched to become “no excuse” states.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia already allowed anyone to vote absentee. But many of these places are making the process easier. California will start proactively mailing ballots to registered voters, joining universal vote-by-mail states such as Colorado. Many states will send every registered voter an absentee-ballot application.
These types of statewide expansions affect another 63 million eligible voters. In some states like Nebraska, individual counties are expanding access to mail-in voting in absence of a statewide directive.
For voters in eight states, in-person voting remains the only option unless they can provide an approved reason not related to fear of the coronavirus. Traditional absentee excuses include military deployments or illness.
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President Trump has made numerous unfounded claims that mail-in voting will create widespread abuse and fraud. His suspicions are out of step with the views of election experts and many within his own party, who are building large-scale vote-by-mail programs. A recent analysis by The Washington Post found only 372 cases of potential fraud out of roughly 14.6 million ballots cast by mail in 2016 and 2018.
While President Donald Trump claims mail-in voting is ripe for fraud and “cheaters,” his reelection campaign and state allies are scrambling to launch operations meant to help their voters cast ballots in the mail.
Through its partnership with the Republican National Committee, Trump’s campaign is training volunteers on the ins and outs of mail-in and absentee voting and sending supporters texts and emails reminding them to send in their ballots.
In another election, the message might have been viewed as standard get-out-the-vote work. But in the age of the coronavirus, it points to a problem for Republicans: How do they follow Trump’s lead and oppose mail-in voting without falling behind Democrats who are embracing the practice as the safest way to vote during a pandemic?
The Trump campaign’s answer is to continue to promote mail voting options, even as it casts doubt on some of the ways it is practiced. The campaign says it specifically draws a line at all-mail elections, where every voter automatically receives a ballot. That practice is “an invitation for fraud,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh contended in a statement.
States with all-mail votes [5 states] have not reported significant fraud.
Trump is trying to mislead voters by asserting that there is a distinction between absentee ballots, and mail-in ballots. The terms are synonymous and are used interchangeably; they are all mail-in ballots. Trump says mail voting is bad, but absentee voting is good. His lawyers admit they’re the same thing:
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump claimed without evidence.
Some states have long used all-mail elections. There have been more than 250 million ballots cast by mail in the last 20 years, and only 143 prosecutions related to mail ballot fraud, or a rate of about 0.00006%.
Trump later reiterated that he opposed “mail-in-voting” but “totally” supports “absentee voting,” even though they are the same thing. Trump and many of his aides have repeatedly voted by mail themselves.
Trump’s own lawyers acknowledged that there is no difference between “mail-in voting” and “absentee voting” in a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s mail voting rules last month.
Attorneys for the Trump campaign noted that while some states have different wording regarding the terminology, “the terms ‘mail-in’ and ‘absentee’ are used interchangeably to discuss the use of the United States Postal Service to deliver ballots to and from electors” in a lawsuit available in full on the president’s website.
Marc Elias, a lawyer for the Democratic Party who frequently argues election cases in court, told MSNBC on Thursday that “there is no distinction” between the two terms.
“They are synonyms,” he said. “Some states tend to use the term ‘mail-in.’ Some states tend to use the term ‘absentee.’ Sometimes, within a state, the statutes will refer to both. But they are both the same. They are both processes by which people who don’t want to show up to the polls in person can receive in the mail a ballot . . . that they either mail back or deliver through some other mechanism to election officials. There is no difference.”
Challenging mail-in ballots is only one leg of Trump’s campaign strategy to undermine and to contest the legitimacy of the election.
The first leg of Trump’s campaign strategy is to have his newly appointed Postmaster General to slow down the U.S. mail and to prevent mail-in ballots from being received on time on election day.
As a preliminary matter, this is a postal crime, a felony. 18 U.S. Code § 1703. Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers:
(a) Whoever, being a Postal Service officer or employee, unlawfully secretes, destroys, detains, delays, or opens any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail entrusted to him or which shall come into his possession, and which was intended to be conveyed by mail, or carried or delivered by any carrier or other employee of the Postal Service, or forwarded through or delivered from any post office or station thereof established by authority of the Postmaster General or the Postal Service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
Prosecute this sonuvabitch.
Letter carriers and voting rights advocates are warning that sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service by the Trump administration and new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy—a major Republican donor to the president—could imperil the agency’s ability to deliver mail-in ballots on time, potentially impacting the results of the November elections. ‘A catastrophe’: Postal workers warn Trump sabotage of USPS could delay mail-in ballots and distort election:
“I’m actually terrified to see election season under the new procedure,” Lori Cash, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 183 in Western New York, told the Washington Post.
The Post reported Thursday that key battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are already experiencing significant mail delays due to DeJoy’s changes, which include overtime cuts and a new pilot program that bars postal workers from sorting mail in the morning.
“The cardinal rule is, ‘don’t delay the mail’ – because it is a postal crime – and we’re in a 180-degree switch where we’re delaying mail every day,” said Cash. If DeJoy’s system isn’t fixed before election season, Cash warned, “it’s going to be a catastrophe at the Post Office.”
The Post noted that any delay in “delivering ballots to voters and then returning them to election officials could cause people to be disenfranchised—especially in states that require ballots to be returned by Election Day.”
“Already, tens of thousands of ballots across the country have been disqualified in this year’s primaries, many because they did not arrive in time,” the Post reported. “In Wisconsin, 2,659 ballots that were returned after the April 13 deadline for the spring primary were not counted due to their late arrival.”
Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of voting rights organizations, said in a statement earlier this month that “slower mail service is unfair—and dangerous—for the millions of Americans who rely on the mail for food, medicine, medical supplies, unemployment checks and other critical mail and packages.”
It is also a postal crime.
“Slowing down our Postal Service also could interfere with this year’s election,” Fields said. “Voting by mail has become more popular than ever—and 34 states require ballots to be received—not just postmarked—by Election Day.”
An anonymous postal worker from California told the Post that if major mail backlogs persist, “there’s no telling how many days-worth of delays there could be” come election time.
“I mean, we’ll be delivering political mail days after the election,” the worker said.
Anticipating that mail delays are likely to continue, the USPS recommended in a statement this week that localities “immediately communicate and advise voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to election date.”
OK, here is the PSA for Arizona voters for the general election on November 3:
- Monday, August 3 – First day to request an early ballot: DO IT TODAY if you have not already done so
- Monday, October 5 – Voter registration cut-off for the general election
- Wednesday, October 7 – Early ballots mailed AND in-person early voting begins: RETURN YOUR EARLY BALLOT AS SOON AS YOU HAVE RECEIVED IT (if you do not trust the mail, drop it off at your county recorder early voting locations)
- Friday, October 23 – Last day to request an early ballot: DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THIS DATE, you are too late; you should have already returned your early ballot
- Friday, October 30 – Last day for in-person early voting
- Saturday October 31 and Monday November 1 – In-person emergency voting at your county recorder offices
- Tuesday, November 3 – Election Day
And please remember to sign, date, and include a daytime phone number on the inner ballot envelope.
Warnings from postal workers come as President Donald Trump continues to peddle unfounded claims about the prevalence of vote-by-mail fraud.
The New Yorker‘s Steve Coll wrote Wednesday that Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of the November election combined with his administration’s undermining of the U.S. Postal Service “raise obvious questions about whether the management of voting by mail will be manipulated in service of Trump’s reelection.”
In a tweet Friday, Mother Jones reporter Ari Berman wrote that “Trump’s unprecedented politicization and gutting of USPS is a much greater threat to American democracy than his bogus call to delay the election.”
Trump's gutting of USPS could lead to 1000s of ballots thrown out. "If they keep this up until the election, there’s no telling how many days-worth of delays there could be. I mean, we’ll be delivering political mail days after the election” a postal worker from California said pic.twitter.com/8F8oN0APU1
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) July 31, 2020
In April, Trump called the USPS “a joke” and demanded that the agency dramatically raise package prices during the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the USPS at risk of running out of cash by the end of September, Treasury Secretary and Bond villain Steve Mnuchin announced Thursday that he reached a deal with DeJoy to give the Postal Service access to $10 billion in funding approved by Congress in March.
Democratic lawmakers warned in a joint statement late Thursday that the terms of the agreement would “would inappropriately insert the Treasury into the internal operations of the Postal Service.”
“Secretary Mnuchin and the leadership of the U.S. Postal Service appear to be exploiting this public health pandemic to hold the Postal Service to unreasonable loan terms without even consulting Congress,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). “We will not stop fighting to protect this critical service that communities depend on and to ensure that every American can safely participate in the November elections.”
It should go without saying that any candidate, let alone a president of the United States, who seeks to undermine our democratic electoral process and to cast doubt on the legitimacy of our elections through his own subversive actions to manipulate the outcome of the election is a disqualification from office. Period.
Most Americans now believe that President Trump will not accept the results of November’s election if he loses to Joe Biden, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — and an even larger majority of Trump voters say they too will refuse to accept a narrow loss if mail-in ballots contribute to Biden’s victory.
Voters who support Trump, meanwhile, share their candidate’s unfounded suspicions about postal balloting, with a full 55 percent saying they would not “accept the result” if Biden wins “because of an advantage in mail-in votes.” Only 21 percent say they would accept a Biden victory under those circumstances.
Cult members of the personality cult of Donald Trump represent a clear and present danger to American democracy.
In 2016, Trump raised the possibility that gun rights supporters could take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton was elected president. Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton.
In April, armed right-wing militias took over several state capitols and disrupted the democratic process of legislatures, and even threatened the lives of governors, after Trump called on his cult followers to “liberate” states from his own administration’s coronavirus guidelines.
And in June and July, Trump culled federal officers from the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to form his own federal militia to put down mostly peaceful protests for Black Lives Matter. Trump’s militia is being deployed to cities with large numbers of black voters in key swing states. Federal agents, officers head to Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee as Operation Legend expands.
These are the acts of a fascist tyrant. No one should be surprised if this tyrant calls on his cult followers to engage in violence in the streets of America in the weeks following election day as the ballots are counted. This will make the Brooks Brothers Riot in Florida in 2000, the last time that Republicans engaged in tyranny to prevent the fair counting of ballots, look like a drunken frat boy party by way of comparison. A bipartisan group secretly gathered to game out a contested Trump-Biden election. It wasn’t pretty:
“All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse,” said Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Defense Department official who co-organized the group known as the Transition Integrity Project. She described what they found in bleak terms: “The law is essentially … it’s almost helpless against a president who’s willing to ignore it.”
Forewarned is forearmed, we all know what to expect, and we should be prepared for it.
Democracy itself is on the ballot this November. It is a binary choice: American democracy, or Trump fascism. On which side will you stand?