In an electoral season replete with unpredicted events, five developing situations are intertwined in ways certain to make for a combustible Nov. 3.
First, the Republicans’ voter suppression strategy, designed to create delay, confusion and discord in the handling of voters and their votes, is proceeding with increasing intensity.
Second, the number of election volunteers is likely to be seriously diminished because of COVID-19. Many of the elderly volunteers who traditionally staff voting sites justifiably fear exposure to the coronavirus. This could lead to the closing of polling places and a reduction in voter turnout.
Third, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s has opposed a House-approve $4 billion package of aid to states. This grant would help states obtain the resources needed to accurately and securely process every ballot.
Fourth, state election officials expect to receive tens of millions of mail-in ballots from voters who want to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Some states, such as New York and Kentucky, already have forecast that tabulating the results may take a week after Election Day. States that allow mail ballots to be counted, so long as they are postmarked on Election Day, guarantee that, given the volume, totaling the vote will spill over beyond November 3.
Fifth, Donald J. Trump is already blaring constantly that the 2020 election will be rigged. Trump has tweeted: “The Democrats are trying to Rig the 2020 Election, plain and simple!” “Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nation’s history - unless that stupidity is ended.”
Trump sure to cry foul
Trump will announce victory on election night no matter how many votes he and Biden have. Trump will then incite street agitations and launch judicial challenges based on conspiratorial fantasies, even without any evidence of voter fraud by the Democrats.
The way out of this toxic scenario is to build on a large majority of Americans averse to such planned Trumpian chaos and political instability by proposing a two-week grace period after November 3. People want every voter to be respected, which means every vote should be counted even if this requires additional time.
A demand for a grace period needs to start now to build up powerful support from a multi-partisan combination of national, state and local candidates for public office. Candidates should pledge not to announce their victory or concede defeat until Nov. 17. Support for this prudent proposal position can be strengthened by retired political leaders, “good government” groups such as the League of Women Voters, and all varieties of columnists, editorial writers, academic experts and other opinion leaders.
It is an undeniable fact that substantial millions of mail-in ballots will not be counted in time. People understand overloaded situations from their own occupations and professions. President Trump is making things worse by generating lawless provocations, with tweets and disruptive actions, and by undermining the U.S. Postal Service, including sending misleading information about mail balloting to voters.
As The Washington Post has reported: “President Trump ... “does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for that cash-strapped agency.” After all, he did bugle a boastful outlawry no previous president ever dared to utter: “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
The mass media should continue the policy of not projecting winners before the polls close. Premature vote projections can depress voter turnout in states where polls haven’t closed.
A 14-day grace period movement will isolate Donald Trump. His bellowings will bounce inside the disbelieved echo chamber of his fabrications. Also, a two-week hiatus will provide time for passions to cool and restored public confidence that our public servants and volunteers can achieve optimal accuracy for electoral legitimacy.
Candidate Biden should not tarry in declaring that he will not ask for a concession from candidate Trump until at least Nov. 17. Mr. Trump will not make a reciprocal pledge so long as his documented campaign strategy is to sow doubt from all directions — domestic and abroad — on the integrity of the electoral process. Trump’s unwillingness to play fair and square, against a deep consensus behind a grace period, will further increase the futility of his destructive contrivances.
With such large stakes for our fragile democracy, we cannot afford to bypass such a course of action that will assure a peaceful transition in accord with the rule of law. Providing a decent interval for a full count of all the votes is a critical step for our democracy.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and co-author of “Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All.” Lou Fisher is a visiting scholar at William & Mary Law School. Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and former associate deputy attorney general and general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission under President Ronald Reagan.
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