Mail-in ballots now central feature of election
After questioning their legitimacy, Trump suddenly a fan -- in Florida
IT’S NOW CLEAR that mailed ballots will assume a prominent role in the November presidential election. The only question is whether that role ends up being to helpfully expand access to the franchise to millions of Americans wary of heading to polling places during a pandemic, or to create mass chaos and uncertainty about the election. It could also do some of both.
The Washington Post says at least 77 percent of American voters will be able to cast ballots by mail in November, a seismic shift in how presidential elections are decided. Such an enormous change is raising anxiety levels among election officials responsible for managing the process.
Weeks after two tightly contested June 23 congressional primaries in New York City, officials had yet to declare winners in the race. (One of the two races was finally called yesterday.) Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other officials traded charges about who was at fault. The US Postal Service came in for criticism over its ability to handle a deluge of mailed ballots — concerns that have only intensified amid reports of a nationwide slowdown in mail delivery. Some voters only received ballots the day before they were due, and officials had trouble determining which ballots were too late to be counted because postage was prepaid and many ballots lacked a postmark date.
“This election is a canary in the coal mine,” one of the congressional candidates said, suggesting it does not bode well for the November election.
While there were problems with mailed ballots not being received by voters and other issues related to remote voting, one of the biggest problems encountered was long lines at polling places, as states reduced the number of in-person locations to vote. Last month, Newton’s city clerk told CommonWealth he was busy recruiting younger poll workers for the fall as many of the city’s regular poll workers were opting out of working this year because they are in older, higher-risk age categories.
Massachusetts has sent all 4.6 million registered voters applications to receive mail-in ballots for the September 1 primary and November 3 general election.
Looming over the whole mailed ballot issue has been President Trump’s incessant railing against the practice. He has continually lobbed the unfounded charge that mail-in ballots will result in massive voter fraud, setting the stage for questioning the election results.
His attacks have befuddled some leaders of the Republican Party, which has developed a better vote-by-mail operation than Democrats. Trump, never hobbled by the need for consistency, suddenly seems to have picked up on this. Yesterday, in a complete 180-degree turn, he declared that Florida — where polls show a tight race and where he’s counting on older voters who may be reluctant to head to polling places — was singularly well-prepared to oversee mail-in-voting, and he encouraged his supporters to cast votes there by mail.
With Trump, of course, what’s good for the goose is often dreadful for the gander, so his campaign and the Republican National Committee also filed suit late yesterday to block Nevada officials from mailing all voters a ballot.Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg suggests that if Trump is so concerned about the legitimacy of the election, “why not, you know, do something to assure the election is conducted properly?”
“There’s nothing stopping Trump from pushing a massive effort to, say, gear up the US Postal Service to handle an increased volume of mail during the election period,” writes Goldberg. “Instead, the donor he appointed to run the USPS has eliminated overtime for postal workers, virtually ensuring delivery delays. Trump could also use the same emergency powers he’s used to acquire ventilators to buy secure ballot drop boxes for the states.”