President Donald Trump, terrified of losing, makes no secret that he wants Amy Coney Barrett speedily confirmed for the Supreme Court because he feels her vote will be essential if he challenges any undesirable outcome of the November 3 election.
While senators were grilling her, the president was firing off blizzards of tweets, including ones enlisting volunteer poll-watchers. His campaign and the Republican National Committee are recruiting a 50,000-person army – including ex-military forces – of poll-watchers that voting rights advocates fear will be used to target and intimidate minority voters.
The president says they’re needed to prevent voter fraud despite a persistent lack of evidence of a widespread problem. If he were honest about threats to the election, he and his congressional supporters wouldn’t ignore election meddling by Russia, which the FBI and intelligence officials insist is real and serious.
Maybe that’s because Trump feels he needs Vladimir Putin’s help once again to discredit an opponent who polls show has a very strong lead.
When presidents seek reelection, the vote becomes a referendum on their first term. Trump expected to glide to a second term aboard a strong economy, but that was derailed by the startling coronavirus, its 210,000-plus death toll, and the virtual shutdown of many sectors of the economy. And his failure to understand that there cannot be economic recovery without conquering the virus digs him into a deeper hole.
What voter fraud does exist appears largely generated by Trump and his supporters.
If you can’t convince ‘em, cheat ‘em. That seems to be the motto of California Republicans who put up more than 50 phony “official” drop boxes to harvest votes, presumably to remove Democratic ballots. The California attorney-general ordered the “illegal” “fake” boxes removed but it is unclear whether the GOP will comply, insisting they answer to a higher authority, namely Trump’s concerns about the “lack of security with mail-in ballots.”
On the first day of early voting in Georgia and Texas, hundreds of people, many of them black and Latino, had to wait eight hours or longer, perhaps not surprising in states notorious for voter suppression and with governors willing to use that technique to win elections. They know that historically Republicans do best when voter turnout is low.
Early voting is already underway and in record numbers, largely in response to the pandemic. Democrats reportedly outnumber Republicans so far. The biggest problem with mail-in votes, officials report, is not fraud but carelessness by voters who fail to follow the rules on signatures, deadlines and envelopes – but these are minuscule, according to the US Election Administration and Voting Survey.
Turnout, not fraud, appears to be Trump’s greatest fear, which explains why he is obsessed with getting around the country to gin up his followers while strewing carefully placed obstacles in the way of those who might not vote for him.
FORMER REPUBLICAN lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg wrote in The Washington Post, “Should Trump seek to delegitimize the presidential election, he would most likely begin by causing delays and chaos in precincts that voted heavily against him in 2016.”
A recruitment video posted on Twitter features Donald Trump Jr. seeking volunteers for an “Army for Trump” to man the polling ramparts and collect evidence to use in challenges in case Trump loses.
Like the group of Trump supporters chanting “four more years” who disrupted early voting in Fairfax, Virginia, last month.
Sending volunteer monitors is a longstanding form of voter intimidation, particularly in black areas. In 1981, the GOP dispatched 200 uniformed and armed poll-watchers to New Jersey, calling themselves the National Ballot Security Task Force. Until the court ordered them out, they intimidated and turned away countless black and Latino voters, according to Prof. Mark Krasovic of Rutgers University.The RNC signed a nationwide federal consent decree to stop the practice, but that order expired two years ago, and Krasovic fears a recurrence.
Republicans in Congress have blocked efforts to revive the Voting Rights Act and include a ban on such practices, as called for by the late Rep. John Lewis. There was a familiar figure in that 1981 incident: The GOP candidate’s campaign manager was the infamous dirty trickster and convicted felon Roger Stone. After the anti-discrimination decree expired two years ago, Trump campaign lawyer Justin Clark promised “really robust” and “more aggressive” voter intimidation tactics this year, Krasovic wrote.
As Trump escalates his assault on voting rights, particularly for minorities, there is a growing fear that white nationalist militias might turn out to “protect” Trump from voter fraud by his opponents. Look for Roger Stone to come riding back, showing his appreciation for his friend Donald keeping him out of prison. Stone went on Alex Jones’s conspiracy radio show to declare ballots in Nevada “are already corrupted” and should be seized by federal marshals and that Trump should nationalize the state police. He’s only just begun.
The president’s longtime confidant has ties to the Proud Boys, which took Trump’s call to “stand by” as a call to arms. Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, called Trump’s message “Get ready for war.”
The GOP is a shrinking monochromatic party in an increasingly diverse country, and rather than meet the challenge of change, it seeks to erect restrictions and obstacles to disenfranchise millions of black, Hispanic, immigrant, poor, disabled and other citizens who might vote Democratic.
Meanwhile, Trump is barnstorming the country on Air Force One to whip up the enthusiasm of his followers to make sure they do turn out.
Trump may have been too successful in trying to discredit mail-in voting because he seems to have motivated more Democrats to vote early and Republicans to wait. So he has slightly shifted his message and started urging his own followers to cast absentee ballots.
This is an election like none before it. Vote early if you can.If you have questions about voting or need help, a reliable, non-partisan source is the League of Women Voters at vote411.org.