Alan Zendell, August 19, 2020
I must correct some misinformation in my post, “The Integrity of Our Election.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s email address on the official Senate website doesn’t work. If you want to tell him how you feel about Republican Senators sitting on their hands while Trump sabotages the Postal Service, the following links work:
Phone Number: 202-224-2541
Government Website: mcconnell.senate.gov
Campaign Website: http://www.teammitch.com
Donald Trump’s attempt to, as Barack Obama put it, kneecap the Post Office is a critically important threat to our election, but in practical terms, it’s not as foreboding as it seems at first glance. As a matter of principle, this brazen attack on the Constitution must be stopped. Pay close attention when the Postmaster General, wealthy Trump donor Louis DeJoy testifies before the Senate and House over the next few days.
The outcome will turn on whether the hearings are legitimate bipartisan inquiries or more meaningless television spectacles. DeJoy wasn’t any more subtle than Trump when he warned that if universal mail-in balloting was adopted, the Post Office wouldn’t be able to deliver all the ballots in time to comply with State laws. If any Republican Senators are critical of the removal of high-speed sorting machines, canceling overtime, and the removal of mailboxes, it will mean that the public outcry has been heard. Whether those Senators are motivated by integrity or self-interest, it will be a costly political defeat for the president.
On the other hand, the specter of 150 million ballots inundating mail processing centers is just a bad dream. In a poll published yesterday, only 34% of likely voters said they would request mail-in ballots. In 2016, more than 136 million Americans voted in the presidential election. Even with a sizable increase in turnout this year, fewer than 50 million mail-in ballots would likely be requested. But many of them, considerably less than half would likely be returned to local Boards of Elections by mail.
Yesterday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said Colorado has successfully carried out mail-in voting for the last ten years without serious problems or any evidence of voter fraud. Colorado has secure drop boxes all over the state which Griswold estimated could handle up to 75% of the ballots cast. Thus, only a fourth would have to be processed by the Post Office. My own state, Maryland does the same thing. I cast my primary vote by delivering my ballot (no postage stamp necessary) to a drop box located outside the Board of Elections. Trump’s claim that the lack of an official postmark on a ballot would invalidate it is pure nonsense.
To put things in perspective, if a third of registered voters request mail-in ballots and two thirds of those use drop boxes to cast their votes, the Postal Service would have to deliver fewer than ten million ballots, nationwide. It processed more than fifty-seven million absentee ballots in 2016 with no reported problems, but that was before 95% of the high-speed sorters were removed by DeJoy. Note, too, that the Postal service handles over a billion Christmas cards and packages every year with negligible mishaps.
Trump is probably powerless to undermine the election, but that doesn’t mean a serious assault on our constitutionally mandated election process is not underway. Attempted murder is a felony even if the victim survives.
Like most things in Trumpworld, there are also serious ethical issues here. DeJoy’s multimillion-dollar stake in a firm that will profit from the Post Office’s demise is a clear conflict of interest. And there is Trump’s often stated desire to hurt Amazon which allegedly saves millions from having the post office do the final step in most of their deliveries, part of his vendetta against Jeff Bezos, who runs both Amazon and the Washington Post.
Nancy Pelosi said DeJoy’s announcement, yesterday, that changes in the mail processing procedures will be halted until after the election is “necessary but insufficient,” and she is correct. Nothing will stop Trump from creating chaos every way he can to discredit an election he fears he will lose. Pelosi and the states must choose their battles, and not react to every provocation. But this is the place to draw a line in the sand and defend it at all costs. The recent attempts to undermine the Post Office’s ability to process mail must not only be halted but reversed.
With at least twenty State Attorneys General suing the administration to restore full productivity at the Postal Service and two Congressional hearings coming up, we should know the outcome before voters lose confidence that their votes will be counted.