They were warned, but rejecting sound medical advice Republican legislators and judges forced Wisconsin voters to vote in person or be disenfranchised because the state did not mail an absentee ballot to them in time to be returned. Calls for vote-by-mail intensify after at least 19 cases of coronavirus are linked to Wisconsin primary election:
Voting rights advocates demanded state and federal lawmakers expand voting-by-mail immediately on Wednesday as Wisconsin health officials announced that nearly 20 new cases of the coronavirus were linked to the in-person voting that took place in the state on April 7.
Critics of the decision to go ahead with the vote were unsurprised by the new cases, and said they offered more proof that other state, local, and federal elections this year must be completed with widespread vote-by-mail systems in place.
Republican lawmakers convened but refused to consider the governor’s proposal to delay the election, and the state Supreme Court sided with the GOP. The U.S. Supreme Court also overturned a lower court ruling to extend the absentee ballot deadline in what journalist Mark Joseph Stern called “one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern times.”
“The Supreme Court paved the way for this to happen,” tweeted Demand Justice, a progressive advocacy group.
Other critics on social media also laid blame for the new cases of COVID-19 on the Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Republicans.
“Thank you, SCOTUS,” tweeted journalist Aaron Rupar sarcastically.
Despite Donald Trump and his Republican enablers opposing expanding mail-in ballots this year to protect the public health and safety, Politico reports States rush to prepare for huge surge of mail voting:
A huge surge in voting by mail is coming whether states prepare for it or not — and without clear direction from the federal government, states are preparing to muscle through their own changes to get ready for the glut of mail ballots coming their way in November.
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In the aftermath [of Wisconsin], election administrators in other states are moving quickly to avoid getting overwhelmed themselves. States that have already mastered massive vote-by-mail systems are serving as informal information clearinghouses for others, dispensing advice on everything from how to line up the best vendors for printing and distributing paper ballots to setting up drive-by or other drop-off points for voters who don’t want to rely on the U.S. Postal Service.
“We’re going to see a substantial switch to mail voting whether or not anybody prepares for it,” said Wendy Weiser, the vice president for democracy at the Brennan Center. “The question is, will the system be prepared to accommodate and process that, or will it be a real mess?”
Deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats on voting by mail has been a major sticking point in coronavirus relief negotiations in Congress. Democratic efforts to mandate expanded mail voting has met stiff resistance from congressional Republicans and the White House, and there were no election-related funds in the most recent aid package. Republicans’ concerns include maintaining state control of elections and the limited amount of time to implement a new system. [Nice ploy: the longer Republicans delay, the less time there is to implement a new system.] President Donald Trump has also made baseless claims alleging widespread fraud inherent in mail voting.
But election experts warn that states don’t have time to wait for Congress to appropriate more money for election aid, so secretaries of state have started seeking advice and guidance from counterparts in states that run predominantly mail-in elections, like Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
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The National Association of Secretaries of State, composed of top election administrators from across the country, has started holding weekly conference calls to discuss tackling elections during a pandemic.
Some states are taking legislative steps to expand mail-in voting in their state and otherwise protect voters from the virus. Other states are making temporary changes.
But despite these state efforts to accommodate voters in a time of pandemic, Donald Trump and his Republican enablers have an evil plan for widespread voter suppression this fall: voters can’t vote by mail if the U.S. Postal Service is out of business. Bwahahaha!
Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent write at the Washington Post, Trump’s new rage attack on the post office could hurt his voters most:
President Trump is trying to kill the U.S. Postal Service — or at least make it submit to his will.
Like many institutions, the Postal Service has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus, with a rapid decline in the volume of mail that has reduced revenues and made its already-difficult financial situation worse. To Trump, this is an opportunity for a full-scale assault on America’s most popular government agency.
Speaking to reporters, Trump just unloaded on the Postal Service, threatening not to support $10 billion in loans to the agency — agreed to in one of the financial rescue packages — unless it quadruples prices.
“The Postal Service is a joke,” Trump said, launching into a sneering list of complaints, including his common and false contention that it loses money by delivering for Amazon.com.
Trump hates Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post which reports on the criminal corruption of the Trump administration, and he doesn’t like that. This is retaliation against someone on his enemies list, and he doesn’t care who else gets hurt. Your just collateral damage.
“If they don’t raise the price, I’m not signing anything,” Trump said, asserting that the USPS should raise the price of package delivery “four times.”
Among the many perversities here is that this move could harm people in rural areas the most — many of whom supported him for president.
Trump has had his sights on the USPS for some time.
When the Cares Act was negotiated, Democrats sought to include help for the Postal Service. The White House threatened to veto the $2 trillion rescue package if it included a penny in assistance.
Congressional negotiators got the White House to agree to up to $10 billion in loans to keep the Postal Service from going insolvent. But that was a trap laid by Trump and Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
That $10 billion, which the Postal Service hasn’t yet requested, was included subject to the approval of Treasury — meaning subject to conditions Mnuchin and Trump insisted upon.
“You get your money only if and when you do me a favor and stick it to my enemy, Jeff Bezos.”
This could lead to an effort to crush postal workers’ unions, and possibly to install Trump cronies in the agency.
But, when it comes to the claims Trump is using to justify this effort, let’s establish some context.
Package delivery is the only significant aspect of Postal Service business that’s increasing as mail volume in general drops. In 2019 it had $22.8 billion in revenue from packages, nearly a third of what it brings in. While Amazon, like other bulk mailers, gets a discount on package delivery, Trump’s claim that the Postal Service loses money on that arrangement is false.
It’s true that the agency has a financial problem. In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the USPS — unlike any other government agency or private company— to prepay 75 years’ worth of employee retirement benefits, which costs billions every year. Without this, its operating losses would be a fraction.
Not only that, the Postal Service is the only government agency that we demand turn a profit.
One key reason for this is that the Postal Service serves every American and treats everyone equally. Which brings us to the impact this will have on rural areas.
Whether you live in Manhattan or in a remote stretch of North Dakota, the Postal Service will deliver your mail — not for the $25 or $30 UPS or FedEx will charge for a letter, but for 55 cents.
This is crucial, because the Postal Service is structured precisely so that it can do things like treat people in rural areas (where mail is more expensive to deliver) equally to people who are closer to metropolitan areas and/or who benefit from more options such as UPS or FedEx.
We talked to Evan Kalish, who is one of the most renowned post office bloggers (yes, there is such a thing) in the country, having visited thousands of post offices, many in rural areas.
“Particularly people in rural areas need the Postal Service to deliver supplies,” Kalish said.
Kalish noted that the Postal Service’s financial challenges are partly by design — it is supposed to eat the higher costs of delivery to rural areas, so people in those areas pay the same rates.
As always, we can have no idea what’s really motivating Trump, since the public interest is perpetually very far from his mind. Notably, whenever the Postal Service comes up, Trump always mentions Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, who owns The Post.
might also associates the Postal Service with vote-by-mail, which he surely hates because it might make voting easier during the fall elections should the pandemic still be with us.
Either way, it’s interesting that Trump, who campaigned on the idea that left-behind rural areas were getting badly treated by cosmopolitan, elitist America, is threatening a service designed to deliver equal treatment to rural America.
“The Postal Service treats everybody equally,” Kalish told us, adding that Trump’s proposed changes would “hurt people in rural areas,” which is “exactly antithetical to the promise that rural Americans matter as much as Blue Staters.”
This is one of many reasons the Postal Service should get a more comprehensive bailout, which Democrats support.
In 2011, the Postal Service tried to address its problems with a proposal to close 3,700 of its more than 30,000 post offices, including many in rural areas. It faced a bipartisan revolt, and a letter signed by 12 rural Republicans blasted the proposal’s threats to rural service. The idea was dropped.
One wonders what Republicans will say now.
That’s a no brainer: “Yes Dear Leader, whatever you say Dear Leader. Your wish is our command.”