Editorial: If Trump Can’t Stop Mail-in Voting, His New Postmaster Could Slow It Down

For months, Donald Trump has promoted his conspiracy theory that voting by mail leads to “widespread voter fraud.” Analyses of past elections indicate that he is wrong. Nevertheless, Trump maintains that if a large number of Americans vote by mail in the 2020 presidential election, the election will be illegitimized. As he pushes his narrative, Trump, himself, is attempting to cheat possibly millions of voters out of their right and access to vote during a pandemic that would otherwise force voters to choose between risking infection at the polls and staying home. The White House’s efforts to obstruct mail-in voting, however, may go beyond simply preaching and tweeting against it.

The U.S. Postal Service has a new Postmaster General, Trump loyalist Louis DeJoy. DeJoy has no experience as a letter carrier or postal service employee, unlike Postmasters General who preceded him, but he is a top Trump donor. If that’s not worrisome, we have only to consider the other heavy donors Trump has appointed to top government positions for which they had no background experience, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson.

In addition, DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, have some stakes in several Postal Service competitors, including United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS). In some other sectors, this might be called conflict of interests. But this is the Trump administration.

We can hardly be surprised that Postmaster General DeJoy wants to dramatically reform the U.S. Postal Service, ostensibly in the name of efficiency. One of his first changes will be to eliminate overtime for hundreds of thousands of U.S. postal workers, even though he knows that it will cause delays in mail delivery. DeJoy also plans to cut services and reduce hours of operation at some post offices, as well as close a number of others.

The U.S. Postal Service’s finances have been strained for years, and the coronavirus pandemic has placed an additional burden on it. The coronavirus relief package that Congress passed in March, however, authorized the U.S. Postal Service to borrow up to $10 billion from the U.S. Treasury to maintain essential services during the pandemic. Though the agency operates independently of the federal government, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin led efforts by the White House to persuade the Postal Service to agree to greater presidential control in exchange for the federal bailout funding. Incidentally, the president has expressed his contempt for the U.S. Post Office, referring to it as a “joke.”

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in mail-in voting in this year’s elections. During the spring primary elections, absentee ballots were up exponentially from previous years. With no foreseeable end to the spread of the virus by November, even more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, and many states want to facilitate this.

Most states already allow some type of mail-in voting. Republicans fear that it favors Democrats, but according to data, it has not historically provided either party with an advantage. At the same time, increased voter turnout tends to benefit Democrats, and voting by mail will make it easer to vote, thus increasing voter turnout. Trump has clearly been made aware of this.

The president knows he lags significantly behind his opponent, Joe Biden, in most presidential polls. His attempts now to portray mail-in voting as  fraught with cheating and fraud are setting the stage for Trump’s intention to discredit the election should he lose.

This week, Trump realized that his efforts to interfere with mail-in voting might work too well, where some of his supporters are concerned. Fearing a situation in November where the coronavirus would keep them home on Election Day, Trump amended his crusade against mail-in voting. He urged GOP voters in Florida and Arizona, only, to cast their ballots by mail, saying, in effect, “It doesn’t work well in most places, except in Florida and Arizona.” Both states have Republican governors.

In contrast, the Trump administration is suing Democrat-run Nevada over its plan to allow universal mail-in voting, saying Nevada is “unprepared.”

“Even if Nevada wanted to do it well, they wouldn’t have enough time. I’m sure the post office doesn’t have enough time. Millions of ballots all of a sudden coming out of nowhere? You know, voting starts in a very short period of time.”

If voters and their governors can’t be discouraged from mailing in their votes during the 2020 election, some lawmakers fear that the U.S. Postal Service, itself, could interfere with election integrity. Postal workers will continue doing their best to get mail to its destination as quickly as possible. The new boss that Trump has appointed for them, however, could slow things down considerably.

Without specifically naming Donald Trump or Louis DeJoy, former President Barack Obama, during his eulogy for the late congressman John Lewis, warned of the current attack on voting rights that is being conducted “with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”

With DeJoy’s postal reforms just in time for the November election, imagine a surge of ballots lying on the floors of post offices across the country and missing their deadlines or timelines because postal workers are no longer allowed to work overtime to process them in a timely manner. Imagine low-income rural voters, such as those in West Virginia, where DeJoy plans to close a number of post offices, unable to get to a nearby post office to ensure a timely postmark on their ballots. Imagine bundles of ballots from certain areas of the country being altogether mysteriously “misplaced.”

Since many states don’t currently accept mail-in ballots unless they arrive by Election Day (even if postmarked before Election Day), on-time delivery will be crucial to this election. If ballots miss deadlines despite voters’ doing all they can to ensure timely arrival, voters will have been disenfranchised. As head of the U.S. Postal Service, Louis DeJoy has the authority and duty to ensure that voters who cast their votes with mail-in ballots are not deprived of their right to vote. But, as stated earlier, this is the Trump administration.

Let’s Talk Trump’s Appointment of Postmaster General DeJoy and the Elements of Criminal Conspiracy | Glenn Kirschner  [2020-08-04]

How Trump Is Slowing Down The Post Office In The Year Of The Mail-In Ballot | All In | MSNBC  [2020-07-29]

Twitter, Truth, and Donald Trump

This week, Twitter provoked Donald Trump’s ire when, for the first time, it added a fact-check warning to a couple of his tweets. Trump had earlier falsely tweeted that mail-in voting was fraudulent and would cause rigged elections.

“We added a label to two @realDonaldTrump Tweets about California’s vote-by-mail plans as part of our efforts to enforce our civic integrity policy,” posted Twitter Safety. “We believe those Tweets could confuse voters about what they need to do to receive a ballot and participate in the election process.”

Twitter also posted this:

“What you need to know – Trump claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘a Rigged Election.’ However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud. – Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to ‘anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.’ In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots. – Five states already vote entirely by mail and all states offer some form of mail-in absentee voting, according to NBC News.”

Trump responded by accusing Twitter of election interference. “Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post…”

Holy projection, Batman! “Election interference” is Trump’s term for shining the light of truth on his actual attempted election interference.

Taking his cue from authoritarian rulers everywhere, Trump continued his tirade by threatening to shut down or at least heap regulations on social media outlets (namely, Twitter). Trump has already taken measures to silence other entities, such as science and the media, when they bring forth information that contradicts Trump’s version of reality. Now, In yet another demonstration of his efforts to squelch what he perceives as opposition, he is attacking Twitter for daring to fact check his tweets.

“Republicans feel that social media platforms totally silence conservative voices,” Trump tweeted later on Tuesday. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that…

“…happen again. Just like we can’t let large-scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act. NOW!!!!”

What, exactly, does Trump mean by “silencing conservative voices”? It appears that he means “encouraging Twitter followers to check out the facts.”

If we focus on reality, truth hasn’t appeared to be a big factor in what Donald Trump and his associated “conservative voices” post and tweet. The accountability they want from social media outlets is not for the sake of truth, but rather for the sake of allowing Trump and his allies to post anything while restricting information—including factual information—that contradicts what they’ve said.

If anything, Twitter hasn’t gone far enough in its policies regarding the integrity of tweets. Its reaction to a recent Trump slanderfest, in fact, was quite different. Twitter has refrained from removing a series of Trump tweets that promote a conspiracy theory that MSNBC news host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough was guilty of murdering an employee (this was proven in court to be false). The widower of the deceased woman asked Twitter directly to remove the Tweets, but so far, at least in this matter, Twitter says that Trump’s tweets have not violated any laws.

Neither has Twitter, by acting on Trump’s mail-in voting tweets. For now, at least, despite his threats, Donald Trump is limited in his authority to shut down or suppress social media outlets.

“Trump would llke to shut them down because of the message. That’s something you can’t do,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, a University of Pennsylvania law professor. “Trump doesn’t have any authority to shut down a company that’s not breaking the law.”

Trump’s threats to squelch Twitter not only show his ignorance of the law, but also show that he hasn’t considered how else, if not via Twitter, he would exercise his off-the-rails communication strategy with his base.

Nevertheless, on Thursday, taking yet another cue from authoritarian leaders everywhere, Trump signed an executive order that could give the federal government oversight of political speech.

Ironically, as he signed it, Trump said, “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers.”

Not only does Donald Trump refuse to examine his own words and actions, he seeks to smother any entity that attempts to do it for him.

In the standard version of “Land of the free and home of the brave,” “free” comes with responsibility, and “brave” comes with integrity. In Donald Trump’s version, “free” means “getting away with whatever you can” (but only if you’re a Trump ally) and “brave” only applies to those who see integrity as cowardice.

Donald Trump appears to believe that “freedom of speech” extends only to those who share his worldview, and he clearly views a “fact check” label as censorship. And though Twitter may not actually remove Trump’s tweets, we can hope that going forward, Twitter posts a “fact check” label every time Trump tweets a lie.

Trump takes on Twitter | ABC News [2020-05-27]

Trump Threatens Social Media Companies After Twitter Fact Checks His Tweets | NBC Nightly News [2020-05-27]