OP-ED: We must protect the fall election
If Donald Trump is to be stopped from becoming President for Life, democracy activists must win this fall’s election protection “trifecta” — restore the voter registration rolls, make it possible for everyone to vote by mail and guarantee a fair and accurate ballot count.
The odds are formidable.
In 2000, 2004 and 2016, Republicans deregistered millions of potential voters in order to put George W. Bush and Donald Trump in the White House. In 2020, the nationwide total has been estimated in the range of 16 million. The disenfranchised would-be voters, of course, are predominantly young, low income and people of color.
In years past, the pretexts for making voting harder have been varied and creative. They range from suspicion of voting twice, to being an ex-felon, to voting in more than one state — things that almost never happen.
This year, Republican lawmakers are stripping the registration rolls of citizens they suspect of having skipped two previous federal elections. Their determination to “clean” the voter rolls has been fierce, especially when applied to voting blocs that lean Democratic.
To win this first leg of the trifecta, election protectionist activists must identify people whose names have been removed and get them reregistered. They also must register millions of new voters.
The activists’ most complex task will be to protect the second leg of the trifecta, vote-by-mail. Ideally, we should allow paper ballots to be sent to all registered voters. In turn, the ballots should come back, be preserved, and then run through electronic ballot scanning devices.
Due to the pandemic, there will be nowhere near enough poll workers to make the old way of voting possible, and vote-by-mail offers a sane alternative. It’s already worked well in Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, each of which has long allowed mail-in ballot voting.
But this year, the number of mailed-in ballots in most states is expected to jump from around 5% to 80% or more. That means enough of these ballots must be printed to serve everyone who’s eligible. They must also be delivered on time to the election boards, and find their way to voters through the U.S. Postal Service.
Polling places will still be needed for those wishing to vote in person. These should be in locations that are easy to reach, and where there’s plenty of protected indoor seating for social distancing. Weapons must be banned, mask-wearing mandated, and food, restrooms and other amenities provided. Election Day should be a local, state and national holiday, and the voting centers should be kept open from the Saturday prior to Nov. 3 Election Day or even longer if possible.
The third and final leg of the trifecta is ballot counting. This can be done virtually flawlessly using electronic digital images. In more than 80% of U.S. counties, electronic scanning devices can create a digital image of all paper ballots. Tens of thousands of paper ballots can be scanned by these machines, with a final tally available in seconds. The ballots themselves can be preserved for future recounts.
If election protection activists win this trifecta, the 2020 election will be defined by the maximum participation of all eligible U.S. voters.
But Trump is doing everything he can to scuttle all that. His GOP is working overtime to strip the voter rolls, undermine vote by mail, and discard the electronic ballot images that are key to a rapid, reliable vote count.
If Trump succeeds, he will nose through the electoral finish line with four more years to destroy our democracy and endanger our planet.
— Harvey Wasserman co-convenes the Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition. His People’s Spiral of U.S. History is at www.solartopia.org, with a finale to be revised upon Donald Trump’s departure. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.