This article is a student op-ed piece from Professor Kim Wehle’s spring 2020 course “Advanced Constitutional Law: Democracy at Risk.” The Legislation and Policy Brief allowed the students to publish their writing on the blog if they wished. The blog pieces were edited by the Legislation and Policy Brief for grammatical and technical errors only, and they appear as they were written by the authors in April of 2020.
Student Author: Cara Wallace
The President is taking a hardline stance on alternatives to in-person voting. “Mail-in voting is horrible. It’s corrupt,” he argued at a White House press briefing. When pressed on the issue he doubles down, saying the practice is a “terrible, terrible thing.”
With the Coronavirus pandemic looming over the country and threatening the November election, access to mail-in voting has become necessary to ensure an election happens fairly, safely, and on time.
“I think mail-in voting is horrible. It’s corrupt!” Trump said at the White House press briefing on April 7. A reporter then pointed out that Trump himself votes by mail. “Sure! I can vote by mail… Because I’m allowed to!” he babbled.
Trump defended the hypocrisy by saying there is a big difference between voting from out of state and voting by mail from within your registered state, when this is patently false. The same protections afforded to absentee ballots could be afforded to a vote-by-mail election.
“You get thousands and thousands of people sitting in someone’s living room signing ballots all over the place,” he ranted. “I think if you vote, you should go… Because a lot of things happen.”
The attacks and voter fraud rhetoric are nothing new to this president—he openly raged against the vote count in the 2016 election claiming Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote due to voter fraud. Trump claimed over 3 million votes were cast fraudulently, by either undocumented immigrants or registered voters voting twice. These claims were easily and quickly dismissed as false, yet he still holds on to this view.
“Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters. They go and collect them. They’re fraudulent in many cases,” Trump said at a press briefing. While experts agree that voter fraud is possible and does happen, it is exceedingly rare and in-person voting locations have security risks as well. Additionally, states already have mail-in infrastructure in place. Five states are already exclusively mail-in voting states.
It seems Trump is back on the voter fraud train after claiming “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” if there was a national expansion of early voting and vote-by-mail. The GOP has long opposed measures to ensure voter’s access to the polls. Republicans are terrified that greater access to the polls diminishes their chances of holding onto political power.
Voting rights groups say vote-by-mail is a way to protect the public and voters from the virus. Failure to do so would result in massive disenfranchisement of millions, especially the vulnerable and the poor, who tend to vote democratic
Trump’s daily Coronavirus news briefings often leave Americans more confused than pacified. His anti-vote-by-mail rhetoric threatens one of the last pieces of democracy left to challenge this administration—a fair election. It is clear Trump and the GOP are using Coronavirus to try and smother a large turnout—in hopes that large numbers of democrats don’t turn out.
Just last week Republicans blocked efforts to delay voting due to Coronavirus in Wisconsin. Conservative judges on the Supreme Court and the highest court in Wisconsin refused to rule the pandemic as a reason defer or delay the election.
The ruling illustrated the partisan divide over increasing voter turnout. Attention must be brought to the class dividing implications of the virus and the parallels to voting. Low-income communities are already showing higher rates of contagion due to close living quarters, no access to healthcare, and a higher proportion of minimum or low wage “essential” workers. Coronavirus is killing African Americans at a greater rate than any other group.
This racial and class divide directly affects access to voting as well, as lower income communities might not be able to make it to the polls due to “essential” work responsibilities, no access to transportation, or caring for sick relatives. Access to safe mail-in voting options for these communities is more critical than ever.
It is clear that the country needs massive vote-by-mail infrastructure in place to ensure voters will be heard in November. The President’s rhetoric is only fueling this divide and confusing Americans with his own hypocritical actions.
It seems Trump’s fears of fraud only apply to the vulnerable masses of our country, and not to the wealthy elite who must vote by mail due to their multiple residences.