Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Sept. 23, 2020

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In Our View: Congress must ensure funding for vote-by-mail

The Columbian

The U.S. Postal Service is trusted with the delivery of Social Security checks, tax payments, stimulus disbursements, vehicle registrations, property tax bills, prescription medicines and other essential items.

All of which points out the absurdity of President Trump’s frequent harangues against voting by mail. Increasingly concerned about his reelection prospects, Trump routinely insists that vote-by-mail systems are ripe for fraud.

Don’t be fooled; this is not about election security. It is about a desperate politician trying to undermine confidence in our election system while preemptively questioning the legitimacy of the November election. With polls showing him trailing Joe Biden three months before votes are cast, Trump is constructing a pedestal on which to place baseless claims of voter fraud should he lose.

Frankly, the president could better enhance his prospects of staying in the White House by addressing the coronavirus pandemic rather than harping on an election system that has proven to be trustworthy. Instead, he would rather shake the faith of the public than effectively do his job.

“I think it really shatters peoples’ confidence in the process,” Kim Wyman, Washington’s secretary of state and top elections official, said during an interview with NPR. “We need to make sure we’re inspiring confidence in the public that this is a fair election. And the way you do that is balancing access and security.”

Wyman, by the way, is a Republican. And she is not the only member of the president’s party who is disturbed by Trump’s efforts to gaslight the public.

“I think it’s very sad and very disappointing that with almost five months to go, the president seems to try to delegitimize the Nov. 3 election,” Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and head of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, said in June. “It just seems to me that this may be an indication he’s more worried about the outcome than he’s worried about fraud.”

Washington has been using vote-by-mail for years, with no indication that it increases voter fraud. During the 2018 election, Wyman said, 142 cases of fraud were identified out of 3.2 million ballots cast, with people illegally voting in two states or voting on behalf of a deceased family member. “So is it perfect? No, but it’s not rampant voter fraud either,” she said.

While diatribes against vote-by-mail can be dismissed as the rantings of a fragile politician, they are cause for concern. So are disruptions in mail delivery that have followed cost-cutting measures under new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump loyalist.

Postal officials said earlier this year that the agency would be insolvent by September. Congress approved $25 billion in funding for the USPS as part of its initial coronavirus package, but the Trump administration blocked that funding and offered $10 billion in the form of loans.

Now, as part of his verbal assault on vote-by-mail, Trump is insisting the postal service will be unable to handle an influx of ballots. With the pandemic creating insecurity about voters congregating to cast their ballots, more absentee ballots are expected to be requested in states that do not have universal vote-by-mail.

All of that calls for action from Congress to ensure adequate funding for states to implement vote-by-mail and to bolster the U.S. Postal Service. Voter fraud is a minor concern as we look ahead to November, but preventing ballots from reaching voters and then arriving at their destination could truly undermine our democracy.