Commentary: The Trump Voter Suppression Plan Is Backfiring

Aug 19, 2020

If we had any advice for President Trump and his now-sputtering campaign against the U.S. Postal Service, it would be this:

Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

If President Trump, with the help of Louis DeJoy, the campaign donor Trump appointed Postmaster General, aimed to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service and render it incapable of delivering millions of absentee mail-in ballots – and in the process undermine the public's faith in the electoral process; it is an effort that would likely come back and bite him in the behind.

Tuesday afternoon, with the pressure of a House investigation spurred by Speaker Nancy Pelosi bearing down on him, DeJoy suddenly he announced he would suspend any changes to the postal service until after the election.

Good call, LaJoy. Slowing down the process of delivering millions of absentee ballots in order to render them uncountable would not be a good look to project in a election where Trump trails badly in the polls and appears to be in danger of losing his job.

And it may well have been an illegal scheme.

It was an effort that had great potential to backfire in Trump's face and result in the disenfranchisement of many more Republican than Democratic voters and make him an even greater longshot for re-election.

How so?

Because of the way the USPS operates and has operated since the time of the first Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin.  He would surely be spinning in his grave if he knew what Trump and LaJoy have been up to – the removal of many of the familiar blue mail boxes from American cities – Democratic cities, that is – making it more difficult for people to mail in their absentee ballots and the dismantling of many mail sorting machines that speed up the process of mail delivery considerably.

That sort of thing will stop, per DeJoy's sudden epiphany Tuesday - although there are plenty of people on the anti-Trump side who will believe it when they see it.

State attorneys general and local prosecutors all over the country were seeing potential violations of state and federal law in what Trump and LaJoy were doing to the postal service.

"Distrust and verify,'' Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper said of the DeJoy annoucement. 

First of all, it needs to be said here loudly and clearly – Trump's repeated suggestion that the outcome of the November election could be impacted by massive voter fraud involving millions and millions of mail-in ballots is complete and utter buncombe, sheer rubbish.

There is not a shred of truth to Trump's assault on the election system.

It is, in fact, a lie.

Actual voter fraud in American elections is the rarest of birds. It is the exception, not the rule.

In my nearly 47 years of covering local, state and national elections – elections that involved untold millions of votes – I am aware of only five instances of prosecutable "voter fraud" – and two of them were simple mistakes by voters who had no intention to commit a crime. One was committed by a Republican state legislator who was so mad about election day voter registration he registered under a false name. He was caught. A misdemeanor crime. The equivalent of a traffic ticket.

Widespread voter fraud is a myth, but the problems with the USPS are real and being made worse by the deJoy administration.

Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor of political science, has done a study of absentee voting in the 2020 primaries for the U.S. Election Project.

What he found was there are, indeed, many thousands of absentee ballots which were not counted in the state primaries because local election officials received them too late to include them in the count.

One of those states was Ohio.

McDonald looked at 69 of Ohio's 88 counties – the three big urban, Democratic counties of Hamilton, Franklin and Cuyahoga – along with 66 rural counties, which tend to be heavily Republican.

In the big urban Democratic counties, an average of 1.7% of the ballots arrived too late to be counted. In the 66 rural counties, the average number of absentee ballots not counted was 4.1%. In Greene County, the home of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, the number was 12.1%.

Why so high in the rural counties?

Because those counties do not have central clearing centers for mail; the mail there goes to Cincinnati or Cleveland or Columbus and then is turned around sent back to the rural, Republican counties. Thus, more late ballots.

This is not, I believe, what Trump and DeJoy intended.

They outsmarted themselves. The net result will likely be the disenfranchisement of at least as many Republican voters as Democratic voters. If not more.

Good thinking, fellas.

Monday, the Ohio Democratic Party raised the question of whether Trump and DeJoy would be breaking federal and state laws if they try to deliberately slow down the delivery of absentee mail ballots.

The Democratic Party sent letters to prosecuting attorneys in Athens, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery and Summit counties reminding them that it is against Ohio law for anyone to "knowingly hinder or delay the deliver of a lawful ballot to a person entitled to receive it."

It’s also a fourth-degree felony in Ohio to knowingly do any of the following:

“(5) Delay the delivery of any absent voter's ballot with a view to preventing its arrival in time to be counted;

(6) Hinder or attempt to hinder the delivery or counting of such absent voter's ballot; 

(7) Fail to forward to the appropriate election official an absent voter's ballot application entrusted to that person.

“Your office has jurisdiction over all state felonies committed within your county," Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper wrote to the prosecutors.  "Recent media reports show President Trump and his appointees may have acted unlawfully, and may be acting unlawfully now, in attempting to hinder Ohioans’ ability to vote by mailed absentee ballot."

Pepper told WVXU Trump's criticisms of mail-in ballots are falling on deaf ears, except among his most loyal supporters.

"We're seeing a much bigger response to voting by mail than ever before,'' Pepper said. "All (Trump) is doing is hurting his own vote."

Even Dave Yost, Ohio's Republican attorney general, also advised Trump to knock it off.

In a letter from Yost to Trump obtained Monday by CBS News and the Columbus Dispatch, Yost told Trump that "the people of this country, for the good of this country, need to know that all lawfully cast votes will be timely delivered so that they can be counted."

"Whatever reforms are needed at the Postal Service," Yost wrote, "it cannot come at the expense of our faith in the 2020 election."

The bottom line is this: It is perfectly safe to cast an absentee ballot in Ohio and elsewhere.

Just make sure you obtain your ballot early and don't leave it sitting on the kitchen table for weeks on end. Fill it out, mail it at least 14 days before the election or save the postage and put it in the secure drop box located at your county's board of elections.

Don't let Trump or anyone else scare you into thinking your vote won't count.