For Donald Trump’s GOP followers, the real issue in the 2020 election is democracy itself.
They want it abolished.
Their primary allies are the Coronavirus, state legislatures like those in Ohio and Wisconsin, and the US Supreme Court.
The campaign just hit a new level in Wisconsin. Using the Pandemic, its gerrymandered GOP legislature made voting in the April 7 primary as dangerous as possible. The US Supreme Court, with its usual 5-4 death hammer, has backed them up.
That 5-4 margin selected George W. Bush (Bush v. Gore) in 2000, and cemented the corporate purchase of our elections with Citizens United (2010), Arizona Clean Elections (2011), Shelby County(2013) and McCutcheon (2014).
The GOP legislatures, which are entrenched in states with an Electoral College majority, might then simply proclaim his “victory.” The Supreme Court, which has just adjourned until October, would rubber stamp the process, 5-4.
In recent years Republican governors and legislators have done all they can to limit the franchise. With discriminatory laws demanding voter ID, de facto poll taxes, abolition of early voting, elimination of neighborhood precincts, failure to deliver ballots and voting machines, bans on voting by alleged ex-felons and more, the GOP has assaulted the ability of citizens of poverty, youth and color to vote.
Now the 2020 Pandemic has made it all but impossible to run voting stations. With social distancing and other necessary precautions, operating 116,990 precincts for some 138,000,000 voters, as in 2018, would be impossible.
The Brennan Center for Justice now estimates it would take about $2 billion to federally fund absentee balloting for the whole nation. All registered voters would be mailed a ballot which they would send back to election boards or voting centers. Social distancing and other challenges raised by the pandemic would be eliminated.
An all paper vote-by-mail system may be the clearest route to a fair election. With ballots mailed to all registered voters, citizens would have the option of mailing or walking them back in to election boards. Centralized election centers would handle voting for those with special needs, and would provide for late registration and mass voting, as in the black community’s “souls to the polls” tradition.
Managing a paper-based universal system poses a wide range of serious challenges. But it can circumvent the main obstacles posed by a Pandemic, and offers a welcome alternative to the chaotic hodge-podge of hackable voting machines and rigged polling places that have cursed so many recent elections.
With a well-run universal paper-based mail-in system, we have every reason to believe that voter turnout would soar and reliable vote counts and recounts would be reasonably do-able.
Which is exactly what the Trump Cult most fears. For them, an easily accessible, reliably verifiable voting process is the ultimate enemy. If such a system were put in place, says Trump, “the Republicans would never win another election.”
In other words, for Trump and his ilk to stay in power, democracy must be crushed.
This week’s disaster in Wisconsin may be exactly what the Republicans have in mind. Trump’s ineptitude and greed have deepened and prolonged the Pandemic. Now he has used it in Wisconsin to crush democracy itself.
Thousands of Wisconsin citizens were denied their right to vote when ballots were not mailed out in time to be returned by a tight artificial deadline, which the Trump courts upheld. Voting stations throughout the state were closed or badly run. In Milwaukee, where 180 were planned, just five operated. Incredibly brave poll workers were scarce and terrified. Their jobs were hampered by the demand for social distancing, face masks (when they could get them) protective gear and more.
As usual in urban areas, incredibly brave, dedicated citizens waited hours to vote—-this time amidst a highly contagious Pandemic. At least some are likely to die from the experience.
In choking off the popular vote, Wisconsin Republicans entrenched a right-wing extremist on the state supreme court for ten more years.
In Ohio, the gerrymandered GOP legislature has blocked mailing ballots directly to registered voters, favored by the Republican Ohio Secretary of State and Ohio voting rights groups. Instead the legislature demands that voters must fill out an application to request an absentee ballot from their board of elections. The ballot is mailed to them, which must then be filled out, put inside an envelope, fill out personal information on the outside of that envelope, put that envelope inside another mailing envelope and either mail it or drop it off at the board of elections.
Strangely, the instructions are: “Important: Your voted ballot must be sealed in this envelope for your ballot to be counted.” The bold letters are theirs, implying that if your inner envelope was not properly sealed, your vote won’t be counted. Even stranger, the pre-paid postage stamp on the return mailing envelope appears on the back side of the envelope, not the side with the mailing address.
These mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than April 27 to be counted.
Voter registration advocates have taken to dumping piles of absentee ballot applications in grocery stores like Kroger in hopes that people will pick them up and get their votes in on time.
Should enough Trump legislatures lock up their states like Ohio and Wisconsin, Trump’s “election” will be a foregone conclusion.
As back-up, he might use the Pandemic he has prolonged to cancel actual voting. The GOP legislatures, which are entrenched in states with an Electoral College majority, might then simply proclaim his “victory.” The Supreme Court, which has just adjourned until October, would rubber stamp the process, 5-4.
The American people now have just seven months to prevent this from happening. It won’t be easy. But our lives depend on it.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored seven books on election theft, which are www.freepress.org, which Bob edits, and which hosts Bob’s Fitrakis Files. Harvey is author of The People’s Spiral of US History and Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, both at www.solartopia.org.