OPINION: Remember Trump’s vote-by-mail lies in November

It is becoming increasingly clear to anyone listening, reading or watching news sources outside the right to far-right news bubble of FOX News, The Washington Times, Newsmax, OAN, The Epoch Times, National Review, etc., that our president and his upper-echelon supporters may be trying to sabotage the November general election by seeding doubt about vote-by-mail systems and destroying the United States Postal Service.

Given its track record, we simply cannot trust the Trump administration to allow a free and fair election by mail. Congress must act now to protect the mechanisms and independence of the Postal Service,” Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrote in an Aug. 10 USA Today opinion column. “Congress must conduct immediate oversight hearings to find out why Postmaster General DeJoy, who has as much as $75 million invested in USPS competitors and contractors, already has eliminated or moved officials holding critical positions and imposed new policies that appear to undercut the agency’s primary mission.”

Consummate investigative journalist Amy Goodman covered the issue on her Aug. 10 Democracy Now! show, on which she interviewed the president of the American Postal Workers Union, Mark Dimondstein, about the president’s recent attacks on vote-by-mail elections and crackdown on the USPS. 

“This idea that (vote-by-mail is) corrupt, it’s fraudulent, that the results of the election shouldn’t be accepted or … that somehow the election maybe should be postponed because of the fraudulent problems with vote-by-mail, that in itself is a fraud on the people of this country,” Dimondstein said. 

He added that, not only can people trust the longstanding vote-by-mail systems states like Washington and Oregon have relied on for nearly two decades, but that, during a pandemic where people risk their lives congregating around others, vote-by-mail is “going to make the difference between whether tens of millions of people have access to the ballot box.”

In the Pacific Northwest, we already know vote-by-mail works. Washingtonians have been allowed to vote by mail for special elections for nearly 40 years and have voted by mail exclusively for more than a decade. Our Oregonian neighbors, who switched to a vote-by-mail system in 1998, also know the benefits and safety of mail-in elections.

So every time Trump says there is rampant voter fraud in vote-by-mail systems, every Washingtonian or Oregonian who regularly participates in vote-by-mail elections should watch to see if his nose is growing from all those lies. 

We understand that mail-in voter fraud is extremely rare. In 2018, Washington’s Republican Secretary of State released data showing 142 cases of improper voting out of 3.1 million ballots — or 0.004 percent of the electorate. Even the far-right Heritage Foundation couldn’t find rampant voter fraud when they investigated cases from every vote-by-mail state. In Oregon, the Foundation’s researchers found 15 cases — out of more than 100 million votes over a span of 19 years.

“The facts say that (vote-by-mail) works,” Dimondstein pointed out on Democracy Now! “It’s more popular from election cycle to election cycle. In 2018, 31 million people voted by mail, including the president himself. There’s no difference between vote-by-mail and absentee balloting.”

We know, especially here in Washington, that vote-by-mail is effective, convenient, safe, secure. In other parts of the nation, vote-by-mail is the most viable option for millions of voters who have been disenfranchised from local and state decisions that have shuttered thousands of polling places. It also provides the safest options for millions not willing to risk their lives or the lives of their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic by going to a physical polling place. 

And as far as vote-by-mail benefitting one party over another, we should easily recognize that this is just not true. Republican candidates have benefitted from vote-by-mail in many areas, including the Camas-Washougal region. 

So why is Trump trying to ruin the reputation of vote-by-mail systems and lying about Democrats trying to ban signature verifications for mail-in ballots mere months before an election that will determine his fate?Many believe he is setting the stage to claim victory early on election night and fight slowly-filtering-in vote-by-mail results favoring presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. As Vox reporter Aaron Rupar recently put it: “It might be hard to fathom that sort of authoritarian power grab happening here … but it’s a scenario that election experts are worried about.”

One of those experts is Paul Gronke, a political science professor at Reed College in Portland.

“That is my nightmare scenario,” Gronke told Rupar in the Aug. 11 Vox article. “We gotta slow down. Trump’s gonna be tweeting, the media … have to slow down. Because he’ll claim victory, or he’ll start to claim malfeasance and fraud, lawyers will be climbing into airplanes and arriving in all these small jurisdictions, and it will be not good.”

We know that our local, vote-by-mail elections in Camas and Washougal most often result in Republican wins. We know vote-by-mail is safe and secure. We know we can trust the USPS to process and deliver our mail-in ballots — in fact, Americans consistently rank the USPS as one of their most trusted institutions. We know vote-by-mail options will help keep Americans safe from COVID-19. We know political science experts are trying to warn us that our own president may be attempting to steal an election. We know Trump is lying about mail-in voting.

We must remember all of this on Nov. 3 — and join in a national outcry if Trump tries to gaslight us into believing the opposite of what we know to be true. Our democracy is relying on it.

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