Is Democracy in Danger?
October 12, 2020
The 2020 Presidential election is being held in less than 30 days, and in a year where nothing can be for certain, I am sure of one thing: it is going to be an absolute disaster. The United States is not prepared to hold a proper election in these circumstances; our polling places are woefully understaffed, our mailing system is slow and crippled (in more ways than one), our local election clerks don’t have the resources to manage the influx of ballots, our voters are either too scared to leave their houses or don’t trust our voting systems, and, at the end of it all, we won’t know who the next President of the United States will be until a week (or more) after November 3rd. To make matters worse, the political discourse in this country hasn’t exactly been peaceful or loving. No matter what candidate wins, a large portion of our country will likely fly into a rage. On September 23rd, President Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power on the basis that there would be widespread voter fraud in the USA. In his own words, “We want to have — get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.” We must make one thing clear before we proceed: the ballots are not out of control. The Brennan Center for Justice, using data from 3 separate elections, has calculated the rate of voter fraud at around 0.0027%. That is not nearly enough to swing an election, even at state levels.
Around the time of Trump’s statement, The Atlantic leaked a story with the headline “The Election That Could Break America”, written by Barton Gellman. In it, he casually reveals a terrifying contingency plan that Trump’s election team has been cooking up. On that same basis of widespread mail-in voter fraud, the President could ask the Republican-held state legislatures in key states to name their states’ electors for Trump, even if the state actually goes for Biden. As per the Constitution, the highest law in the land, the President is decided by the Electors, not the people. Originally, the Electors were chosen by the members of state legislatures; while that practice is no longer in effect due to the rise of the Populist movement and the passing of the 17th Amendment, legally, the state legislatures can still choose their Electors. This statement will sound extremely partisan, and that’s because it is; we have continuously seen GOP Senators abandon their morals and fall in line with the Trump administration out of fear of reprisal. Their lowest moments have undoubtedly been in their complicity and their silence, such as their refusing to criticize their president on his mishandling of the pandemic or allowing him to make egregious statements with no refutation (like labeling NYC as an anarchist jurisdiction). The point being, it should come as a shock to no one if a blatant power grab such as that one is met with silence.
Gellman’s article details various constitutional crises that could happen as a result of delayed election results and a president who has no regard for convention or tradition. I will not go into detail about those crises, but I can say this: those crises will be met with some form of physical violence on the streets. The longer that the results are delayed or disputed, the angrier the American people will get. Democrats want everyone’s vote to be tallied (perhaps not a terrible thing to want?), but that will take a long time. Due to a shortage of funding and staff (in part because of the pandemic), polling places are being shut down. Not only does this result in longer lines in person, but also mean that mail-in ballots are going to take EVEN longer to tally. This election will have the highest amount of mail-in ballots ever, and most people will be using the USPS for those ballots, an organization that hasn’t been able to meet its time goals for the past 5 years. So, what we’re going to be seeing is an under-funded and understaffed USPS delivering ballots to understaffed polling places which, in many states, won’t be allowed to even BEGIN counting these paper ballots until November 3rd. Even in normal circumstances, the process of counting the mail-in ballots takes weeks. With such a large influx of ballots and such a shortage of workers, this process will take even longer. We also cannot forget the changes being made to the USPS by our Postmaster General, Louis Dejoy. Multiple large mail-sorting machines have been dismantled and will not be put back together, making the process of counting ballots all the more slow. It should also be noted that, in many states, ballots must arrive by Election Day as well; a ballot that was mailed well before November 3rd, but happens to arrive after will be discounted. Rather than change the rule to “ballots must be mailed by Election Day in order to be counted,” it seems multiple states would rather just sit on their hands and let their current rules stand, right as the chronically-late USPS is getting its funding cut, its resources dismantled, and its upper management reorganized, along with its workers being put out of action due to health issues. This means that hundreds of thousands of potential voters will be disenfranchised because they did everything right and something out of their control caused their ballot to be late. These are breeding grounds for a disaster and it seems that a disturbingly large portion of states aren’t doing anything about it.
Now, if we look at the President’s political strategy amidst all of this, we see that he’s been continuing to undermine Republican faith in mail-in voting all this time. If Democrats want to count every ballot, they’re going to have to take the time to do so. The American people are used to getting their results on Election Night. This year’s process will become Election Week, whether we like it or not. The longer that time goes on without an undeclared winner, the longer conspiracy theories will begin to take root. As we know, the President is excellent at stoking fear and distrust among his supporters; they already don’t trust the mail-in voting process, and you can be sure that the majority of mail-in ballots are going to be blue. This phenomenon is called the “blue shift,” but it hasn’t ever been enough to change the tide of a presidential election (though with so many mail-in ballots this year, that could change). In typical elections, Democrats tend to vote more by mail, and they will do so in even greater numbers in November. What will be a commanding lead for Republicans on Election Night will undoubtedly shrink (or in some cases, flip) such that a red state or county will turn blue after all the votes are tallied. That’s not a conspiracy, that’s how counting works. However, for a man who claimed that 3 million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, that won’t matter. If Joe Biden wins due to a late, massive mail-in voting surge, violence is extremely likely to erupt across our nation. What better time for a leader to grab the reins, send federal agents to cities, and reinstitute “LAW AND ORDER” into Democrat-run cities?
Democrats will also have their fair share of problems with the voting process; mail-in voting is a complicated process and it seems that Republican legislators across the nation are making it harder for mail-in ballots to be counted. In Pennsylvania, your ballot can be discounted if you don’t put it in an unmarked secrecy envelope, which you then put inside of a marked outer envelope. If a voter’s signature is partially incomplete or they switch things up and sign at the wrong place, their ballot is immediately discounted. If a ballot is even postmarked wrong, it will not be counted. It does not matter if the worker understands what they mean or if it is a small mistake; those are grounds for throwing away a ballot. A recent ruling is set to discount 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania on those grounds. Trump won that state by 44,000 votes. This would not be a problem with in-person voting because there are usually poll workers to help in the process, but that won’t be as common this year. Apart from those ballots being thrown out, it should also be noted that Republicans are currently fighting in courts to stop common sense measures like “sending out ballots to every registered voter” or “allowing clerks to begin counting ballots before Election Day.”
We haven’t even gotten to mention the fact that polling places may try to use newer machines this year. In Georgia, a machine meltdown combined with a systematic shutting down of polling stations forced people who arrived fairly early to wait until 2AM to cast their ballot. In the Iowa Caucus, machine meltdowns led to a winner never officially being announced in the Democratic Primaries. We also haven’t been able to mention that a ruling banning the RNC from hiring “poll watchers” from the 1980’s expired in 2018. The RNC had to be banned from doing so because in 1980, they took armed volunteers (often sheriffs and off duty policemen) and had them patrol the polls and identify anyone that looked suspicious. It should come as a shock to no one that the “suspicious” people were the ones who happened to be born with melanin. Given that the ruling expired in 2018 (and no one thought to renew it), the RNC has recruited over 50,000 volunteers for 15 hotly contested states to watch the polls for suspicious behavior. As our own President said, “We’re going to have sheriffs and we’re going to have law enforcement and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys” to watch for voter fraud at the polls. Just a quick heads up, we have a name for this: it’s called voter intimidation.
Things are going to get bad. This article hasn’t even begun to delve into the constitutional crises and deadlines that ensue when you have an inane system such as the Electoral College. We’ve only barely touched on the violence that will ensue if the “blue shift” turns a previously red state into a blue one. That shift happened in the 2018 Arizona Senatorial election, and thus it can happen again. If you want to help in some way, be 16 and register to be a student poll worker. If you can’t due to age restrictions or due to the reality of the pandemic, then all you can do is brace for impact.
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