The COVID-19 pandemic is taking the United States by storm, with a rising case count of 51,884 as of August 6th, 2020. Not only does the virus affect individuals’ health, livelihood and income, but it may also affect the way Americans vote for the upcoming 2020 election, which is to be held in November. As a result of the pandemic, the idea of mail-in ballots came into proposition. This proposal prompted American President Donald Trump to voice his outrage over the idea of mail-in ballots being implemented alongside polling stations to avoid large gatherings. Trump fears implementing mail-in voting could lead to a falsified election. He made his opinion on mail-in ballots public during a lower-than-anticipated turnout rate at a weekend campaign rally of his. Throughout the rally, he expressed a series of widely debunked lies regarding alleged voter fraud. Although mail-in ballots appear to be a sensible solution, Trump seems to be intimidated by the idea; here is why.
Trump made a number of tweets following his diluted campaign rally claiming “This will be the Election disaster of our time. Mail-In Ballots will lead to a RIGGED ELECTION!”. Another tweet of his read in all caps “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”. Later, he even accused political opponents, with no evidence, of using the implementation of mail-in ballots, under the guise of concern for the global pandemic, as a way to cheat during the 2020 election.
President Trump is blatantly lying about the negative impact mail in ballots will have on the upcoming election. Bipartisan officials across the United States, under the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended mail-in ballots as a “pandemic-safe option”. Nonpartisan and independent election experts disproved Trump’s false tweets within minutes of his claims. Furthermore, there have not been any proven cases or significant allegations of voter fraud in states with a universal mail-in-ballot option. The system in operation of mail-in-ballots makes it nearly impossible: by distributing ballots in such a unique and dispersed way that any chance of success in committing fraud must involve thousands of “separate acts, all of them individual felonies, that must both occur and go undetected to have any chance of success”.
The Hidden Diversity of Mail-in Ballots
Political scientists are “bracing for a voter-turnout tsunami” as signs show voter turnout for the 2020 election could reach the “highest levels in decades, if not the highest in the past century”. It is estimated that 156 million individuals will vote in the 2020 election, a massive increase from the 139 million ballots in the 2016 election . Not only is it predicted that the 2020 election will have a substantial turnout, it is also predicted to be remarkably diverse.
What makes the 2020 Election so diverse?In 2018, approximately one thousand polling stations closed leading up to the November election, predominantly in Black communities across America. Specifically in Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana and Texas, which have been reported to “have all made alarming reductions in polling stations.” For example, 10 counties in 2018 , all with fairly large Black communities, in Georgia shut down polling stations following a recommendation from a white elections consultant to save money. It is no coincidence a large number of the polling stations were closed in black communities as Stacey Abrams, a Democrat seeking to become the first black woman elected for governor in America, was featured on the ballot.
Abrams was running against Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State, who has previously steered efforts in Georgia to eliminate voter rolls, cut early voting and shut down polling stations. This year, Kemp took the initiative to block the voting registration of 53,000 Georgia residents, 70% of whom are African Americans. Because of Kemp’s tumultuous history with the Black community, it is not unlikely that his initiative was meant to sway votes by preventing African Americans from voting for Abrams.
This dismantling of polling stations has been commonly used in elections as a political tool to influence and affect the outcome of elections. Officials reduce voter involvement of minority groups by reducing polling stations in specific neighbourhoods. Voter involvement is then increased in white groups as polling stations are placed strategically in white-dominated neighbourhoods. Meaning, mail-in ballots have the potential to hinder the effect of dismantled polling stations, thus making voting more accessible for groups who face racial distrimination.
Additionally, mail in ballots could increase voter turnout for those living with disabilities. The Government Accountability Office found that during the 2016 election, at least 60% of polling stations were inaccessible to voters living with a disability. This number has been essentially stagnant for the past several election cycles. Mail-in-ballots would provide individuals living with a disability the option to cast their ballot from the comfort of their own home. Mail in voting would also assist individuals who require additional time to take in information by reviewing their ballot within a space of less stimulation. More so, mail-in-ballots have the potential to relieve the stress and exclusion for individuals with physical disabilities who experience difficulties while navigating public transportation to polling stations, or possibly facing obstacles when entering an inaccessible facility. Not to mention, individuals living with a compromised immune system can cast their vote through mail-in-ballots with the reassurance of not risking their health, especially during a pandemic.
So, Why Does Trump Feel so Threatened by Mail-in Ballots?
To break it down, the amount of polling stations in a county leads a significant impact on who votes. When the location of polling stations is changed or eliminated in coloured communities, it can lead to a lower turnout rate of coloured voters. On top of that, fewer polling stations lead to longer lines of voters, possibly discouraging individuals from voting. In 2016, a nationwide study sent researchers to hundreds of polling stations across America to observe changing aspects in voter lines. The study showed that about 3% of voters standing in line left before they had a chance to cast a ballot.
In addition, researchers from UCLA found during the 2016 Election, voters in Black neighbourhoods waited an average 29% longer than voters in white communities. Not only does this affect the amount of Black votes, the wait time collectively meant half a billion dollars in lost wages. With this knowledge, officials can intentionally transform the outcome of an election by manipulating polling stations, which also means lessening the numbers of voters who disagree with a candidate’s position.
So, with the implementation of mail-in-ballots, Trump knows he could not manipulate voter turnout with the easy accessibility of voting from home. He claims his fears of mail-in-ballots surround foreign votes, which would make a falsified election. In reality, officials of his class status have been falsifying elections since the Civil Rights movement, where state governments acted to block Black individuals from voting with poll tax, a series of limiting laws and even intimidation from white supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump’s sudden combat moves to sabotage the possibility of mail-in-ballots demonstrates his fears of not winning the 2020 Election, and his repression over U.S. citizens. He recently exhibited this in early August by removing neighbourhood mailboxes in Oregon and mail-sorting machines from The United States Postal Service facilities around the country without explanation. Trump eliminating mailboxes to cast ballots and removing the same machines that would sort mail-in-ballots is another political tool to sway, manipulate and cheat the 2020 Election within his favour.
The Bottom Line
With the global pandemic and tumultuous political climate, it is more important now than ever that U.S. citizens have access to a fair and safe vote. President Trump knows that implementing mail in voting means he will lose the power to manipulate the election through polling locations, and possibly lose the election overall. Because of this, he is recklessly and vigorously spreading misinformation about the dangers of mail in voter fraud to dissuade states from implementing it. Overall, it is crucial that citizens inform themselves on their voting options. If you are 18 years of age or older and living in the United States, here is a great place to start!