Stacey Abrams, Soledad O’Brien and More Join #MailedIt Tweetathon to Save the USPS and Mail-in Voting!
Today, on National Postal Worker Day, Samantha Bee, host of TBS’ Emmy Award-winning Full Frontal launched the #MailedIt campaign, which is a social movement to save the United States Postal Service (USPS), and it’s currently trending #1 on Twitter!
Key voices in culture including Stacey Abrams, Soledad O’Brien, April Reign, Phoebe Robinson, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, Khloe Kardashian, Bette Midler, Jessica Pimentel, Tony Goldwyn, April Reign, Joy Behar and more have already Tweeted Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin (@stevenmnuchin1) and asked him to bail out the post office, which is in danger of closing in October if they don’t receive government funding. If this happens, this will severely affect the upcoming 2020 presidential election due to the impact it will have on the delivery of mail-in ballots.
For every Tweet sent, using the hashtag #MailedIt, Full Frontal will purchase a stamp in support of the USPS (up to 100K stamps) in hopes of saving the American institution from closing. We’d love for you to write a story or post to social.
Watch Stacey Abrams on Joy Reid’s show here.
PEW: There is growing concern among election officials and experts that the increasingly partisan debate around voting by mail could sow doubt in the results of the presidential election.
For months, President Donald Trump has been one of the loudest opponents to vote by mail, which experts agree is a safe alternative to in-person voting during the novel coronavirus outbreak. There is little evidence it leads to voter fraud or benefits one party over another.
“Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing,” Trump told reporters last month, despite evidence to the contrary. “They’re subject to massive fraud.” Trump has voted by mail several times, including in Florida’s primary earlier this year.
By attacking mail-in voting with unsubstantiated claims, some officials and experts fear, the president’s outbursts could threaten the integrity of the general election by dissuading voters from participating and diminishing Americans’ trust in the legitimacy of the results.
His narrative has consequences, said Marian Schneider, president of the election security nonprofit Verified Voting. It could lead to some Americans doubting the outcome of the November election, she said.
Because of an expected surge in mail-in ballots, election officials will need more time to count ballots, which could delay the final results, she said. Add to that months of partisan attacks on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and the country could be heading for trouble.
“The narrative that sows doubt in the election results is very destructive to our democracy as a whole,” Schneider said. “It undermines the democratic institution of voting.”
There is a troubling partisan pattern developing over this issue, said Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine. Partisanship could complicate the work of state and local election officials preparing for November.
“When you add on top of these administrative challenges that we’re operating in a charged partisan environment,” he said, “I’m really worried.” Read more.
NPR: Casting a ballot by mail isn’t a new way to vote, but it is getting fresh attention as the coronavirus pandemic upends daily life.
The voting method is quickly becoming the norm and quickly becoming politically charged as some Republicans — specifically President Trump — fight against the mail-voting expansion happening nationwide.
Here are answers to key questions about mail ballots and the controversy around them.
- What is mail voting?
- Which states are offering mail voting?
- What do Americans think?
- What is the argument against it?
- What are the facts on fraud?
- Is nationwide mail voting possible?
Washington Post: The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly transforming this year’s elections, changing the way tens of millions of people cast ballots and putting thousands of election officials at the center of a pitched political fight as they rush to adapt with limited time and funding.
This striking shift in the voting landscape encompasses nearly every part of the country, red and blue states alike. But with November less than six months away, the largely bipartisan wave of change has been hit by political turbulence as President Trump raises unfounded doubts about the security of voting by mail and threatens to punish states where Democratic leaders are facilitating it.
Battles over voting in the age of the coronavirus are defining the 2020 presidential cycle, with intense partisan fights over the rules erupting in states such as Wisconsin and Texas. The outcome will shape how easy it will be for people to cast their ballots in November — and in some cases, whether certain mail-in votes will be counted.
As more than two dozen legal battles wend their way through the courts, local and state officials are racing to figure out how to administer the election amid the health crisis, propelled by an unyielding calendar.
“There’s so much debate in Washington, particularly as a result of comments from the president, around the questions: ‘Are people going to be voting by mail?’ ‘Should they be allowed to vote by mail?’ And the fact of the matter is, they’re doing it,” said Larry Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
“The election officials have to essentially create a new infrastructure for handling that,” he added. “They prepared for one election and got another.”
This year, more than 168 million of the nation’s nearly 198 million registered voters are eligible to vote absentee in either midyear contests or the general election.
In the fall, the country could see a huge surge in mail voting compared with 2016, when more than 33 million ballots were cast absentee or sent in by mail for the general election, about 24 percent of the vote, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
The process has already been messy and costly, posing challenges for local election clerks, the U.S. Postal Service and voters trying to navigate the shifting rules.
The next big test will come June 2, when eight states and the District of Columbia are holding primaries. At the same time, many jurisdictions are face looming deadlines to order ballot materials and specialty equipment for the general election. ,,,
Eleven states that require an excuse to vote absentee have announced that voters may cast ballots by mail for the primaries this year if they are concerned in-person voting will make them sick. These decisions temporarily make voting by mail accessible to more than 40 millionpeople.
Another 12 states and the District of Columbia are proactively sending absentee ballot applications or request forms to voters specifically because of the coronavirus. Roughly 34.7 million people will receive the forms, according to state figures on registered and active voters.
In the most controversial move, four states — Maryland, Montana, Nevada and New Jersey — are proactively sending absentee ballots for the primaries to approximately 11.3 million voters in the coming months. They join five states that already mail ballots to voters. Read more.
David Cole, New York Review of Books: Nothing symbolizes democracy like long lines at the polls on election day. They represent a collective act of faith, as chances are virtually nil that any one of the votes we cast over our lifetime will determine the outcome of an election. They remind us that many of our fellow citizens have had to fight to stand in such lines. And because long lines are also often a sign that election officials have failed to provide sufficient voting opportunities, they illustrate the tenacity of citizens who insist on casting their ballots even when the government seems more interested in obstructing than in facilitating the franchise.
Not since the civil rights era, when African-Americans in the South braved death threats to exercise their right to vote, has a voting line embodied this commitment more profoundly than on April 7 in Milwaukee. People lined up around the block, trying to maintain six-foot social-distancing intervals, to vote in what was a relatively unimportant election. At issue were only the all-but-concluded Democratic presidential primary, a single state supreme court seat, and a small number of lower state and local offices. At a time when their governor and mayor—both Democrats—had instructed them to shelter in place, these Milwaukee citizens had come out to stand in public for hours in order to exercise their constitutional right. The city, which ordinarily operates 180 polling places, opened only five, as poll workers balked at showing up. At least forty voters and poll workers may have contracted the coronavirus as a result.
It was government officials who compelled them to risk their health, and possibly their lives, to vote: specifically, the Wisconsin state legislature, the justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the justices of the United States Supreme Court—or more accurately, the Republican members of those institutions. The Republican-gerrymandered state legislature blocked Governor Tony Evers’s efforts to delay the election until June or to conduct an all-mail election. When the governor invoked his emergency powers to unilaterally suspend in-person voting until June, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, on a party-line 4–2 vote, nullified his order, proclaiming that he lacked the authority to take such action. For their part, all of the court’s justices voted absentee; they weren’t risking a trip to the polls.
The night before the election, the US Supreme Court stepped in to stay a federal district court ruling that had merely extended by six days the deadline for the state to receive absentee ballots, including those postmarked after election day. The district court imposed this modest extension when it became clear that thousands of voters would not receive their absentee ballots until after the election, because an unprecedented surge in requests for such ballots overwhelmed the Wisconsin electoral system. The US Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority declared that the district court’s order violated the principle that courts “ordinarily” should not alter the rules for elections shortly before election day. The majority also noted, repeatedly, that the plaintiffs—who included Wisconsin voters, voting rights organizations, and the Democratic National Committee—had not specifically requested this particular relief.
But as Linda Greenhouse commented in The New York Times, there was nothing “ordinary” about this election, which came in what President Trump had predicted would be the worst week of the pandemic. And as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, the plaintiffs had in fact requested that relief at the preliminary injunction hearing—a correction the majority did not even acknowledge, much less dispute. As a result, thousands of Wisconsin residents had to put their health at risk to vote—a risk the US Supreme Court justices, who voted on the case remotely, were unwilling to take themselves. (If you think there’s a pattern here, there is.)
Why was there so much drama over such a minor election? And what does it portend for the momentous election coming in November? The answer is disturbing: in the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans may have discovered the ultimate voter suppression tactic. For years they have sought to erect obstacles to voting, imposing strict voter identification requirements, limiting registration opportunities, purging voter rolls, and opposing early voting—all ostensibly in the name of fighting in-person “voter fraud,” even though there is virtually no evidence that anyone unlawfully impersonates a voter at the polls. Many Republicans believe that low voter turnout favors them, because older and wealthier citizens, disproportionately Republican, vote more regularly than younger and poorer citizens, who tend to favor Democrats. But the suppression tactics the party has previously pursued pale in comparison to fear of contracting a deadly disease, which is certain to deter many people from going to the polls. And that’s apparently how some Republicans like it.
The obvious answer to the problem of how to preserve democracy in a pandemic is to expand voting by mail. Failing to make absentee voting in these circumstances available to all is an impermissible burden on the constitutional right to vote—just as providing only a single polling place for a large district would be. The Supreme Court has declared the right to vote “of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.”1 States must provide adequate opportunities to vote, and when they do not, even if the immediate cause is beyond their control, they violate the Constitution. For example, when a hurricane hit Florida during the last week of voter registration in 2016, the state was constitutionally required to extend the registration deadline.2 The usual deadline was permissible under ordinary circumstances but became unduly onerous in the emergency conditions created by the hurricane. The same rationale holds with respect to rules that restrict voting by mail. They might be reasonable in ordinary times, but not when the alternative is to risk contagion in order to exercise one’s right.
At the moment, five states—Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Hawaii—conduct their elections almost entirely by mail. Another twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia permit “no-excuse” absentee voting, while the remaining seventeen states and Puerto Rico permit absentee voting only for specific causes, such as being out of state on election day. During the pandemic, absentee voting should be available to all registered voters, without requiring an “excuse.” The coronavirus is, after all, a universal excuse. States should send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, with prepaid return envelopes, to ensure the maximum opportunity to vote. On April 24, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York would do just that.
Yet President Trump has opposed such public health–promoting suggestions. He claims that if we were to adopt voting by mail, “you’d never have another Republican elected in this country again.” The Republican Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives agreed, predicting that voting by mail would be “extremely devastating to Republicans.” That would be the case only if, when more voters’ preferences are counted, there are more votes for Democrats than for Republicans. But that’s precisely how democracy is supposed to work: it’s called “majority rule.” If the only way a party can prevail is by suppressing votes, it shouldn’t win.
In fact, there’s little evidence to back Trump’s assertion that voting by mail favors Democrats. Studies of voting by mail in practice reveal no systemic advantage for either party.3 In the disputed Wisconsin election, The New York Times found that mailed ballots gave a significant advantage to the unexpectedly victorious Democratic candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Jill Karofsky. But some experts believe that may have been because the Democratic Party did a better job in this election of urging its voters to cast ballots by mail.4 Voting by mail may be especially attractive to rural and older voters who have difficulty getting to polling stations—both demographics that tend to skew Republican.5 Trump himself votes by mail, and Republicans have long aggressively urged their voters to do so where it is allowed. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Republican National Committee is calling it “easy, convenient, and secure.”6
It’s not clear at this point how much Trump’s opposition to voting by mail will affect the November election. The most likely swing states—Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona—all permit no-excuse absentee voting already. And many “red” states are already taking steps to make voting by mail easier. Alabama, Indiana, and West Virginia have announced that all voters will be permitted to vote by mail in their upcoming primary elections. West Virginia and Georgia are mailing absentee ballot applications to registered voters. In New Hampshire, which ordinarily limits absentee ballots to those with specific excuses, the Republican governor issued an order permitting anyone to vote by mail not just in the primary but also in November, becoming the first “no-excuse” state to relax its excuse requirements for the general election. Read more.
FiveThirtyEight: As with most aspects of our daily lives, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the administration of elections. Several states have already postponed primaries that were scheduled for this spring, and the few in-person elections that have taken place were marred by chaos. But with an election date of November 3 more or less set in stone, how can the general election be conducted safely if the pandemic is still raging in the fall?
Many officials and voters alike think the solution is to conduct the election predominantly by mail — but that’s easier said than done. Converting to a vote-by-mail system is arduous and expensive, and most states simply aren’t set up to smoothly conduct a mail election with their present resources and laws.
Currently, state laws on the use of mail voting are a patchwork quilt. Only five states regularly conduct mail elections by default: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Three more, though, do allow counties to opt into mail voting, and nine more allow certain elections to be conducted by mail — although these are typically low-turnout, local elections, a far cry from the 2020 presidential race.
Another 29 states (plus Washington, D.C.) give voters the option to vote by mail — also known as no-excuse absentee voting — in federal elections, but the burden is on the voter to request her ballot. The remaining 16 states still require voters to provide a valid excuse if they want to vote by mail, although this year, some states may accept concerns around the coronavirus as an excuse. (New Hampshire has already moved to do that for the general election.) Read more.
Congressional Democrats must recognize that Americans want this change, and bargain hard for the $4 billion that will assure safe and fair elections
John Nichols, Nation Magazine: President Trump and his hyper-partisan Republican allies have been attacking proposals to vote by mail in November. The reason has nothing to do with honest concerns about this system for voting, which has gotten high marks in the handful of states where it has already been implemented—and which offers an option for a safe, high-turnout national election even as the coronavirus pandemic lingers, or diminishes and returns in the fall. Trump, who lost the 2016 election by 2.9 million votes and prevailed only because of the antidemocratic Electoral College, fears a high-turnout election might not favor him.
But the American people understand that election procedures aren’t supposed to be enacted to help or hinder particular politicians.
So it is that, for all of Trump’s ranting about the supposed perils of voting by mail, the American people love the idea. Democrats need to recognize this reality. Instead of bending to the president, they can demand in coming stimulus negotiations that Trump and the Republicans bend—knowing that the numbers are on their side.
The latest Harvard-Harris survey, which was conducted April 14–16, asked 2,394 voters, “Currently three states (Oregon, Washington, and Colorado) conduct their elections completely by mail. Would you support a decision to conduct the 2020 Presidential election entirely by mail in all 50 states?”
Seventy-two percent of those who answered said “yes.”
Just 28 percent said “no.”
Politics aside, many states will face daunting financial, logistical and personnel challenges to making mail balloting the norm.
New York Times: When Colorado’s 3.5 million voters help select a president this fall, their choice will be made almost entirely by mail, via ballots in postage-paid envelopes dropped off in mailboxes or, more commonly, in bins scattered statewide.
Not so in Alabama. As the law now stands, all voters must cast their ballots on Election Day, at their designated polling places, unless they vote absentee. And getting an absentee ballot is so hard that fewer than 55,000 of 1.7 million voters cast one in the last election.
Election experts, voting rights advocates and a chorus of Democrats are urging states to switch as much as is possible to voting by mail for the November election. Their aim is to ensure that the vote is not plagued by the same nightmare scenario that occurred this week in Wisconsin of voters in masks and gloves going to polls — or staying home — amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, endorsed the idea on Thursday, saying the state would hold its election by mail in November if health risks were still an issue. The Republican secretary of state in Iowa, Paul Pate, raised the same prospect this week. Elsewhere, Republican opposition, like court filings and President Trump’s baseless charge that voting by mail is riddled with fraud, leaves the future of that effort in doubt.
But even if those hurdles were cleared, many, if not most, states would face daunting financial, logistical and personnel challenges to making mail balloting the norm — and a deadline that would turn it into a breathless sprint.
“Switching to voting by mail, even in states with no history of it, can absolutely be done, and quite likely it may need to be done,” said Judd Choate, the state elections director in Colorado, which made the change six years ago. “It’s just a matter of how bumpy it is.” Read more.
electionline.org: According to the U.S. Census, in 2018, just 6.2 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the Northeast part of the country did so by mail/via absentee. In the South, it was 9.7 percent. Overall, just 23.1 percent of the 2018 ballots were cast by mail/absentee.
Now with the nation in the grips of a global pandemic and the November 3 general election less than seven months away, many states are figuring out how to expand the ability to vote absentee/by mail.
For states like Arizona, where the majority of residents are on the state’s Permanent Early Voting List, which means they get a ballot in the mail, the lift to go to an all/mostly mail election for November, if they choose to, would be relatively “simple”. For places like the District of Columbia where only about 8 percent of the 2016 general election ballots were cast by absentee, the move to greatly expand voting by mail will be a big lift, but not impossible.
This week the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC) and Sector Coordinating Council’s (SCC) Joint COVID Working Group have put out six FAQ/ consideration documents on how to increase absentee or vote by mail in time for November. The purpose of the COVID working group is to support state and local officials and their private sector partners run elections during this pandemic by looking at everything from expanded mail voting to in-person voting in a social distancing environment.
“These are unprecedented times for everyone, especially election officials. These documents provide state and local election offices with answers to some of the questions they might have as well as some they might not have thought of yet but need to be aware of,” said Lori Augino, director of elections for the State of Washington and president of the National Association of State Election Directors. “I’m proud of how our community is working together to help Americans cast their ballots this year.”
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, as an executive committee member agreed to chair the working group. The group started with calls focusing on general responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, but much of the requests for information centered on how to expand absentee/ voting by mail along a realistic spectrum in each state.
In order to not get bogged down in issues pertaining to each jurisdiction the group considered how to create a slightly different governing approach that could address the risks and concerns that the election community as a whole will need to consider. The working group further divided into smaller groups — or what they liked to call “swim lanes” — that focused on a specific area.
“With election officials around the country reexamining their 2020 election plans to account for the impact of COVID-19, I am confident this series of documents can help with the tough decisions they face,” said EAC Chairman Ben Hovland. “This group effort represents input from all aspects of the elections community including state and local election officials, federal partners, and industry professionals. The ability to pull people together and create these documents so quickly would not have been possible without the critical infrastructure governance being in place for elections.”
The goal was to expedite the collection of existing best practices and assist in the efficient development of tools and resources. Each subgroup was assigned a lead and worked through which elections officials and organizations would be contacted about each topic so they didn’t overwhelm the same people, people who are also be contacted by individual elections officials and the media. Read more.