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Trump Admits He’s Starving the Postal Service to Sabotage Voting by Mail

Intelligencer logo Intelligencer 8/13/2020 Ed Kilgore
Ballots that don’t arrive by state deadlines won’t be counted, and Trump’s counting on that. Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images © Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images Ballots that don’t arrive by state deadlines won’t be counted, and Trump’s counting on that. Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

If you have any doubt that Donald Trump is at least playing with the idea of tampering with the November 3 election by disenfranchising many voters using mail ballots, or perhaps just slowing down the count so he can claim an early victory based on early returns, check this out (via the Washington Post):

Trump said Thursday he does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the cash-strapped agency.

“Now, they need that money in order to make the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. He added: “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped.”

Here’s the video:

At issue, as Trump made clear in his Wednesday press briefing, are two items congressional Democrats have proposed in the coronavirus stimulus negotiations: $25 billion in emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service, which has been struggling to meet its traditional obligations, and another $3.6 billion in assistance to state and local election officials who have been struggling to staff polling places and process mail ballots. The latter money could be used to facilitate voting by mail, but there is no mandate for that; Trump-obedient Republicans could spend it all on Election Day voting if they wish. Senate Republicans included neither item in their HEALS proposal for much lower levels for stimulus assistance.

By singling out these two items as provisions he will block, Trump is making it clear he’s willing to degrade postal services for the entire country if it helps him in his war with perfectly legal voting by mail (to be clear, states, not Trump, get to decide which voting methods are deemed legitimate, and under what terms).

Slow mail service could serve the president’s purposes in two ways. First, many states (including battlegrounds states Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – really all of them other than North Carolina) require that mail ballots be received by Election Day to be counted. Many could be thrown out due to no fault of the voter, particularly if slow mail service screws up the timetable for processing mail ballot applications and sending out ballots well before Election Day.

Second, even if mail ballots aren’t actually invalidated, the later they are received the longer it will take to count them. This could create a scenario that Trump himself has hinted at whereby he claims victory based on an early lead from Election Day in-person votes and attacks later-arriving mail ballots as “fraudulent.”

Pointing to Trump’s many signals that he intends to challenge the legitimacy of mail ballots despite COVID-19-related fears of voting by person, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes that USPS is already slowing down service:

It’s telling that after President Trump was widely rebuked for suggesting a delay of the election, he wasn’t remotely chastened. Instead, he floated another scenario that could help him accomplish the same goal of avoiding a free and fair election:

He suggested that only the votes that can be tallied on Election Day should count.

This may seem like Trumpian bluster. But it’s much more alarming in light of an important new exposé in The Post that reports on big backlogs in mail delivery due to “cost-cutting” by the new head of the U.S. Postal Service — who, by spectacular coincidence, just happens to be a top Trump fundraiser.

This is ballot-tampering in plain sight, folks, infinitely more significant than the extremely rare occasions of fraud in voting by mail. The ultimate position was betrayed by Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow: in a CNBC interview, he described voting rights as part of a “really liberal left wishlist” the administration and its party would fight.

I know there are a lot of urgent things on the stimulus wish-list of congressional Democratic negotiators; I have myself suggested that stopping the accelerated Census count that could affect congressional and state legislative districting and distribution of federal funds for a decade should become a mandatory item. But it’s becoming clear Democrats should tell Trump that he’s not going to be able to send out those $1,200 stimulus checks on which his reelection hopes depend unless he stops promoting a chaotic November election by starving both the Postal Service and state and local election officials who are supposed to work together to make sure every vote counts.

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