Election Red Alert — All Hands On Deck
September 10, 2020
Trump is trying to manipulate the election with misinformation. This election is about whether he’ll get away with it. Here's what you can do.
By Kenny Bruno
Forget polls. Ignore conventions. Disregard debates and running mates.
The 2020 presidential election will not be decided by the popularity of candidates or their ideas. It will not be decided by how many people intend to vote for each candidate.
The election will be decided by how many people try to vote and how many votes get counted and reported correctly.
Trump is trying to manipulate the election with misinformation. This election is about whether he’ll get away with it.
Here are the main methods of voter suppression.
Break the United States Postal Service (USPS) and then call it broken. Because of the pandemic, voting in person is riskier than usual. As the pandemic affects Indigenous, rural, low-income communities and Black people disproportionately, it will also tend to reduce voter turnout in those communities. Early, absentee and all forms of vote-by-mail (including hand-delivering a ballot that was received by mail) are the safe alternatives.
If you are voting by mail, be sure to carefully follow any accompanying instructions. If you’re new to mail-in voting, check this list of common things to look out for so your ballot doesn’t get rejected.
Trump is regularly disparaging vote-by-mail, a form of voting used by one in four voters in the 2016 election. Documented cases of mail-ballot fraud are minuscule, but he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are refusing to fund the USPS, and the new Postmaster General (PMG), Louis DeJoy, has elevated the attacks on the USPS. DeJoy in particular has declared new rules to slow the delivery of U.S. mail. The libertarian billionaire campaign against the Postal Service has been brewing for years and is now boiling. Trump admitted on August 13th that he’s blatantly undermining the post office to make voting harder. Candidates, voters, and organizations including the NAACP and Common Cause are suing to prevent the post office from being sabotaged, and as a result, DeJoy has indicated some of the changes will be delayed until after the election. Nonetheless, the damage to confidence in the USPS has been done.
The brazen attack on a popular institution just when it is needed most will work to the extent that voters distrust the mail. Don’t let this happen! Voting by mail is safe. If that’s your preference, go ahead and do it!
Purge voter rolls. This is also called “voter list maintenance” and if done correctly it makes sure that lists are updated and accurate. What happens too frequently is that eligible, registered voters show up to vote to find their names have disappeared. Trump knows this and is using the chaos it creates to his advantage.
In many states, the GOP has undertaken an aggressive voter purge. About 17 million voters were purged between 2016 and 2018. In 2017, a mass purge of more than half a million voters in Georgia conducted by Secretary of State Brian Kemp led to the governor’s election going to… Brian Kemp. (Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams never conceded.)
Eliminate polling places. In order for polling places to operate they need poll workers. Most poll workers are seniors, and because of the pandemic, many will choose not to work on Election Day due to the higher risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. That could lead to the closing of many polling places and longer lines at the few that open. For the Wisconsin primary, only five polling places were open in Milwaukee instead of the usual 180. With the higher turnout in general elections, that could mean there wouldn’t be enough time for everyone to vote on Election Day.
Undercount votes. Since the 2000 election was decided in Florida, many people are aware that counting and recounting votes is not a simple matter. Mailed-in ballots are under-counted by as much as twenty percent, and the reasons for discounting a ballot are as varied as the patchwork of state and county laws that govern voting. The reality is the election may not be decided on November 3rd.
We need to ensure that all votes, including mail-in ballots, are counted accurately before the next President is decided and that may take days or weeks.
Intimidate voters. Trump sent federal agents, some from Customs and Border Protection, some without insignia, to break up racial justice demonstrations in Portland, Oregon. This kind of intimidation is straight out of the dictator’s playbook, and we believe that was just a rehearsal. In fact Trump vowed to do it again in U.S. cities run by Democratic mayors. Not coincidentally, the turnout in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, with large numbers of Black voters in purple states, may determine the winner in the Electoral College.
A second form of voter intimidation is the “Continue to Serve” initiative, whereby retired police and military personnel would serve as poll watchers to challenge voters, creating a hostile presence and fueling anxieties among voters who are already suspicious of the authorities. In the midst of nation-wide ongoing fights against police brutality and state violence Trump understands well that having police serve as poll watchers is a deep form of intimidation. Republicans announced their plan last spring to recruit 50,000 poll watchers and spend $20 million in 15 key states “to shape who gets to vote in November — and whose ballots are counted,” according to The New York Times.
What We Can Do
Here are some things you can do to help restore integrity to U.S. elections.
Make sure you are registered to vote. Double check your registration status by going to Vote.org, a non-partisan resource hub. And if you find out that you’re not registered, you can re-register on the spot! From there you can request a mail-in ballot from your county election board or commission or find out the location of your polling place. If you do plan on voting in-person make sure you come prepared with PPE and be ready to social distance. For detailed how-to information, see Vote.org and New American Voters 2020.
Vote early. Do you want to vote by mail? Or do you want to find your voting place by zip code and your street address? Vote.org can answer all these questions and more, including election dates, deadlines and rules. To derail any funny business, know your rights as a voter. Here’s a state-by-state list of how to vote by mail. And here’s a separate place to double-check all the vote-related dates and deadlines in your state. Also, if your state has early voting in-person make sure to bring your PPE and take part.
Election Day might get chaotic. Get your ballot into the election board or commission well ahead of time to take the pressure off and allow more people to vote in-person under safer conditions. If you request a mail-in ballot, return it promptly.
*Become a poll worker. We need people with low risk of harm from the novel coronavirus to become poll workers. It’s an important job, and it’s paid. Signing up as a poll worker will help make sure no poll places will close due to lack of poll workers. Just by signing up you are entering the pipeline and helping to keep polling locations open! Click this link to register as a poll worker. PollHero.org is another helpful resource to help you learn your local regulations and workelections.com shows you how to become a poll worker. We highly recommend that you get training from our allies at the Democracy Initiative by emailing [email protected] (Keep in mind that in most places you must be a registered voter in the precinct or at least the state where you want to serve as a poll worker.)
Become an election scrutineer. Join the Scrutineers Community to learn how to scrutinize elections and keep them fair, county by county, state by state. Scrutineers will train you on how to approach local election officials and various ways you can monitor elections locally.
Join the Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition. This network brings together experts in all fields of election protection for weekly Zoom calls and provides opportunity for deeper engagement and connections to other networks in specific states.
Engage with your Board of Elections. Procedurally, the vote on November 3rd is not a national election; it is a collection of 3,141 separate county elections. County election boards (also known as election commissions) have a huge influence on voting rules and how they are implemented. You can help make sure the election is administered fairly, especially in the few battleground states that will determine who wins in the Electoral College. You can start by contacting your local election officials and asking how to get involved. Depending on the county, citizens can sometimes gain access to the ballot-counting process and keep an eye on official vote counters. You can request, through the Freedom of Information Act, information on what voting machines they use, how they keep records of the ballots, and how the votes will be counted and recounted. Just calling or visiting your Board of Elections will put them on notice that the public is paying attention.
Prepare to mobilize after the election. Unless there’s a landslide, litigation is likely to determine the election outcome. Intimidation by right wing Trump supporters and media spin might also play a role. You can sign up to mobilize in support of respecting election results with Indivisible and Stand Up America.
You can also volunteer with Greenpeace USA to contact TWO MILLION potential climate voters to make sure they have everything they need. Sign up at votefortheclimate.com.
Deploy your organization’s resources. Progressive organizations, whether 501(c)3 or 501(c)4, can maintain their normal missions while prioritizing election protection. Staff, volunteers and members can be deployed by the hundreds and thousands. Every progressive group’s missions will be more difficult or impossible with another four years of political nightmare. There will be no “just recovery” from the pandemic. No improvement in health care. The feds will not confront the rise of white nationalism. Inequality will worsen. There will be no Green New Deal.
Until the election is decided, arguments about policy minutiae are about as productive as discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. All groups and people dedicated to progressive causes can fulfill their mission by prioritizing election protection for the short term.
The 2020 election is critical in setting the stage for the political fight to pass a Green New Deal and in order to win we need to combat voter suppression and increase voter turnout. We are fighting for the right to vote, right to protest, right to a safe and healthy environment and democracy.
*As a reminder, If you do plan to help protect the election in person, PLEASE do so safely considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding risks (e.g. no shaking hands, no sharing food, etc) is key.