Because of the corona pandemic, absentee voting and the stricken postal service are taking center stage in the hot phase of the U.S. Election campaign.
President donald trump warns of the biggest election fraud in history, while his challenger joe biden and democrats portray the postal service as the savior of democracy in times of corona virus. They accuse republican trump of weakening the post in order to manipulate the election. New post chief vows swift improvement ahead of congressional questioning this week. The house of representatives is even interrupting its summer recess because of the absentee ballot crisis.
WHY IS ABSENTEE VOTING SUDDENLY SO IMPORTANT?
Authorities expect the election on 3. November with a massive increase in absentee voting as millions of americans don’t want to risk going to the polling place because of corona. In the U.S., the election always takes place on a normal working day, which is why, for example, almost a quarter of voters in 2016 already voted by mail. That was a good 33 million votes. This year, according to some experts, nearly one in two votes could come by mail. The absentee ballot results could therefore decide the outcome of the election.
WHY DO MANY STATES ADVOCATE ABSENTEE VOTING??
Many of the 50 U.S. States have made it easier or extended deadlines to allow absentee voting because of the pandemic. Some states, such as california, ohio and now new jersey, even send the ballot papers unsolicited to citizens. People shouldn’t have to "choose between the right to vote and protecting their health," gov. Phil murphy said. Many states are also pivoting because they may have a hard time finding enough volunteers to work in polling places. In 2016, for example, 56 percent of election workers nationwide were older than 60 – which would put them in the corona risk group today.
WHY IS ABSENTEE VOTING SUDDENLY SO CONTROVERSIAL??
President trump has turned the established – and largely uncontroversial in 2016 – form of voting into a national bone of contention. He has warned almost daily for weeks that the expected sharp increase in voting by absentee ballot will lead to election fraud. "This is going to be the biggest fraud in history," he claimed last week. In some places, ballots are mailed to "dead people and dogs," he said. Trump views absentee voting as a feint by democrats to beat him by using high voter turnout. He also dislikes the fact that absentee voters can vote weeks before the election and thus won’t see, say, the TV duels between him and biden.
WHAT’S THE TRUTH OF TRUMP’S ACCUSATIONS?
Trump has yet to present any substantive evidence. Experts and even many republicans reject trump’s warnings. Election fraud rarely occurs in the U.S. Even minor cases such as an unauthorized vote often lead to prison sentences, as a survey by the conservative heritage foundation shows. According to experts at the brennan center think tank, fraud affected only about 0.0025 percent of the votes cast at polling places in polls studied, and even less in absentee ballots. The likelihood of an american tampering with an absentee ballot is less than the likelihood of being struck by lightning, they added.
WHAT COULD BE THE CONSEQUENCES OF TRUMP’S ACCUSATIONS?
Many democrats fear trump’s campaign against absentee ballots is aimed at calling into question the legitimacy of voting overall. Here’s the logic: if trump were to lose, he could claim election fraud and refuse to acknowledge the results. The scenario is not made up out of thin air. As recently as monday, trump said he would only lose "if the election is rigged".
There is no precedent in recent U.S. History for a scenario in which the incumbent refused to concede defeat. If it comes to that, the country’s split into opposing political camps is likely to come to a dangerous head. The seeds of doubt have already been sown: four years ago, about 60 percent of respondents in a poll had confidence that the election results would be counted correctly; this month, that figure was down to 45 percent.
RESULTS WILL BE DELAYED BECAUSE OF ABSENTEE BALLOTING?
According to many experts, there won’t be a robust result on election night, especially if it’s close. A reliable result could come days later or even the following week, adding fuel to allegations of fraud. The background is that counting absentee ballots in many states is more complicated than counting regular ballots, for example, because of voter signature matching. In addition, in many states, ballots postmarked on election day must still be counted days later.
ELECTION RESULT ONLY ON SAINT NEVER-NEVER-DAY?
Pundits’ nightmare has a name: florida. The result of the 2000 presidential election was not legally determined until a month after the vote – by the U.S. Supreme court. Lawsuits could delay results this year as well. Trump most recently warned the results this year "may not be known for months or years". Experts believe this is exaggerated.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE POST OFFICE??
If the number of absentee voters actually doubles this year, the state postal service would have to transport up to 70 million ballots on time. And it doesn’t end there: in many states, voters must first request the absentee ballot application, then it must be mailed in, the next step is to mail in the ballot materials, then they must be completed and returned by mail.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS OF THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE?
The postal service (USPS) is making big losses: from 2007 to 2019, for example, USPS was $78 billion in losses, according to the general accounting office. The main reason is that there are fewer letters and the growing package sector is highly competitive. That’s why the head of the postal service, republican big spender louis dejoy, who has been in office since june, has introduced cost-cutting measures that, according to U.S. Media, have led to major delays in mail delivery across the country. Several states are considering lawsuits against the postal service over the election. After a wave of outrage, dejoy did an about-face tuesday, promising all ballots would now be transported on time.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE POST OFFICE DOESN’T MAKE IT AFTER ALL?
If delivery can’t keep up after all, countless valid votes are at risk of being lost nationwide. Thousands or even tens of thousands of missing votes could easily change election results in some states – and possibly decide who becomes president. This is due to the US election law: almost everywhere, the candidate with the most votes wins the entire state – even if it is only by a razor-thin margin.
WHAT DO DEMOCRATS SAY ABOUT THE POSTAL CRISIS?
Democrats accuse trump of deliberately weakening the post before the election. "We are seeing across the country the devastating effects of the president’s campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the mail to disenfranchise voters," said recent house speaker nancy pelosi. Leading democratic senator chuck schumer warned, "when americans doubt the fairness of their elections, it’s the beginning of the end." former democratic presidential hopeful pete buttigieg stressed wednesday that trump’s attempts to sow doubt about the outcome of the election were "deeply disturbing and very dangerous".
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Because of the postal crisis, house lawmakers are expected to vote saturday on a bill to prohibit the postal service from making cuts until the pandemic ends. In addition, the company is set to receive $25 billion in aid. But trump and his republicans, who control the senate, have so far refused to do that. Democrats have summoned the postal chief for questioning next monday. He is already scheduled to appear on the senate floor on friday.