Election Watch—April 7, 2020

ballot box graphic

Wisconsin votes today. Milwaukee has 180 polling places, but only 5 will be open. Five polling places in a city of about 600,000. Imagine Minneapolis (population about 422,000) voting at five polling places. With a statewide stay-at-home order in place, Democrats in Wisconsin have tried, over and over, to make this a vote-by-mail election. No dice, say Wisconsin Republicans.

Even “normal” absentee voting is stymied—more than a million voters have requested absentee ballots, but the system was not ready and many, likely most, of the million have not yet received the absentee ballots they requested. Absentee ballots will not be counted unless they are postmarked today—so if voters have not yet received their ballots, their votes will not count.

Heather Cox Richardson tells the long and complicated back story of voter suppression and “REDMAP” that have kept a Republican majority in the Wisconsin legislature, and gave Trump a 23,000 vote win in 2016. Now the Republican-controlled legislature is trying to remove another 240,000 names from voter rolls, and a court challenge is before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A Trump-endorsed Wisconsin Supreme Court justice is on the ballot today. Richardson explains:

“Before the pandemic, observers thought Kelly’s opponent had a good chance of unseating him because of expected high turnout among Democrats. But now, of course, all bets are off, especially since the Democratic strongholds in the state are in the cities, where the residents are hunkered down.”

Last week, a federal judge ordered an extension of the deadline for absentee ballot postmarks to April 13. Last night, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said no: ballots must be postmarked by midnight tonight to be counted, even though voters have not yet received those ballots.

Richardson quotes from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent:

“Writing for the four other judges in dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that ‘the court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement.’ ‘The majority of this Court declares that this case presents a “narrow, technical question”…. That is wrong. The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic. Under the District Court’s order, they would be able to do so. Even if they receive their absentee ballot in the days immediately following election day, they could return it. With the majority’s stay in place, that will not be possible. Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety, or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance—to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin’s citizens, the integrity of the State’s election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the Nation.’”

Today Wisconsin voters face a dilemma: abide by the state’s stay-at-home order and lose their right to vote or go to the polls, endangering themselves and their families and communities.

Far more than Wisconsin is at stake. This is just one place where Republicans are trying to “win” elections by preventing people from voting.

Democrats proposed aid to state election processes in the COVID-19 stimulus package, in part to help states put in place vote-by-mail provisions. Trump and the Republicans said no, with Trump explaining to Fox & Friends, “The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Many Republicans agree. Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston said vote by mail “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia. … Every registered voter is going to get one of these. … This will certainly drive up turnout.”

That’s the problem—if we allow people to vote, Republicans won’t get elected. The solution, clearly, is to stop people from voting. That means not only stopping vote-by-mail, but also purging voter rolls and making voting tougher for all.

Meanwhile, Russian election interference continues, and is ramping up around the world. CNN recently uncovered a Russian troll farm operating in Ghana, targeting the United States.



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