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EDITORIAL: Wolf leads on election prep

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE - In this May 27, 2020 file photo, a worker processes mail-in ballots at the Bucks County Board of Elections office prior to the primary election in Doylestown, Pa. Deep-pocketed and often anonymous donors are pouring over $100 million into an intensifying dispute about whether it should be easier to vote by mail, a fight that could determine President Donald Trump's fate in the November election. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

It’s no secret that President Donald Trump wants to sow confusion and undermine confidence in this November’s election. Trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in national and swing-state polls — often, including in Pennsylvania, by double digits — the president is preparing his base to raise holy hell if he should lose the election.

One of his biggest targets is voting by mail. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to rage throughout the country — thanks in large part the administration’s phenomenally feeble response — there is little doubt that mail-in voting can and should be used extensively to ensure broad voter participation while protecting the public.

But the president evidently is interested in neither.

Through Twitter tirades and public statements, Trump has sought to delegitimize mail-in voting while insisting Americans must vote in person: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” he declared recently (and baselessly) on Twitter.

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We’ve seen this movie before. Don’t forget, before surprising the political world (and himself) by winning the presidency in 2016, Trump whined long and loudly that the election was rigged, the better to dispute the results.

The problem this time around is that, while failing to concede defeat in 2016 would have been a boorish (though by no means uncharacteristic) slight, doing so in 2020 could lead to a constitutional crisis.

All of which is why presidential suggestions about inaccuracies and fraud must be dismissed as the groundless ravings they are, and steps put in place to make mail-in voting widely and readily available.

Give Gov. Tom Wolf credit for taking those steps in Pennsylvania. The Wolf administration on Friday announced plans to use money from federal emergency coronavirus aid to pay postage costs for mail-in ballots in November’s general election.

“Our goal is to make voting as accessible, safe, and easy for eligible voters as possible,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar in outlining voting goals that are the polar opposite of the president’s.

The move, which would see Pennsylvania voters who apply for and receive a mail-in or absentee ballot also receive a postage-paid ballot-return envelope, not only acknowledges the increased interest in mail-in voting during the pandemic, it encourages it. Remember, mail-in ballots can be requested by anyone in Pennsylvania for any reason (never mind the president’s supposed distinction between and mail-in and absentee ballots; they are, for all intents and purposes, the same). Voters simply need to make sure they’re registered and get their application in by the Oct. 27 deadline.

A word to the wise: Don’t wait that long.

Among the president’s other strategies for sowing chaos and confusion into the November election is meddling with the beleaguered U.S. Postal System.

A recently installed postmaster general (qualifications: Trump megadonor and GOP fundraiser) would appear to be aiding and abetting this mission. Complaints have come in far and wide that new practices such as cutting back on overtime pay are slowing deliveries and contributing to backlogs, fueling concerns the moves are intended to undercut postal service ahead of the election. After all, with many states requiring mail-in ballots to be received by Election Day, delayed deliveries could disenfranchise huge numbers of voters.

Congress could alleviate much of the issue by providing much-needed emergency funding. In fact, the House-passed relief measure included $25 billion in such aid, but the Senate has failed to act.

So even the best strategy for ensuring safe voting this fall is under assault.

This year’s presidential election may well be the most consequential in generations. Keystone State voters were a decisive voting bloc in 2016 and stand to fill that role again this year. Not a single voter wanting their voice to be heard should face obstacles in casting a ballot or concerns it won’t be counted.

All the more reason Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting provisions are to be celebrated and, more importantly, utilized in the Nov. 3 election.