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John Colson: Let’s follow Wisconsin’s example in November

John Colson
Hit & Run

I should say at the outset that I have never been a big fan of mail-in-voting.

I’ve been voting since 1972, the year after the feds lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, thereby introducing some 11 million new voters to the game of politics.

For more than 40 of the ensuing years, I dutifully trooped to the polls every Election Day, did my duty in selecting my governmental representatives, and often went home with a little sticker that declared “I Voted,” with little fanfare or doubt about the integrity of the process.

But in 2013, after I had lived in Colorado for more than three decades, the state government concluded that earlier experiments in mail-in-ballots had been wildly successful. Voter turnout was increased, officials said, the security of the affected elections was never seriously questioned, and that year the state switched to its new regime of mail-in voting.

OK, I thought, this is not a problem, even though I continued to troop to my Carbondale polling place every election day and voted in person out of habit as much as anything. I liked the social aspect of standing in line, chatting with my neighbors and the election officials, and generally reveling in the first-person exercise of the most critical right we have here in the U.S. — the right to vote into office the people who run our government, or to vote out of office the people we don’t think are doing a good enough job at running our government.

Fast forward to 2020, however, and everything is changing, including how we vote.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has made in-person voting something to be feared by those hoping to avoid catching the disease. That’s because standing in long lines waiting for a booth to open up makes for a perfect opportunity for what is known as “community spread” — when someone who is carrying the virus breathes on you, or shouts at you, or even touches you, putting you at risk for contagion.

This rising danger has pushed many states to switch to mail-in balloting to one degree or another, and there is a big move afoot to universalize mail-in voting.

But there is a problem: the one guy who deserves more than any other to be pushed out of office, President Donald Trump, is frantically pushing back at the movement to switch the whole country into voting by mail.

Why is he doing this, when nearly everybody else in the country trusts the post office more than just about any other institution, and feels pretty confident that it is the most secure way to vote from home and avoid long lines and other potential hassles?

Trump’s reasoning (and that of his shrinking army of supporters and sycophants) is no secret; he has publicly said at least twice that he fears voting by mail would benefit Democrats, because it would increase voter turnout.

In fact, back in late March he openly admitted, before a crowd of Republican loyalists, that “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” if access to voting were expanded. He knows he was elected by a revved-up minority of voters in 2016, and that increases in voter turnout could only spell disaster for him and his party in 2020.

He said much the same thing a few days ago in an interview on State TV … oops, I mean Fox News, his favorite propaganda outlet. Numerous reports last week quoted the president telling an interviewer that he wants to starve the USPS of funding so it won’t be able to handle the massive number of ballots that would be brought on by mail-in voting.

And now Trump has given control of the U.S. Postal Service to Louis DeJoy, a loyalist with no experience whatsoever in postal matters. But DeJoy, a mega-donor to Trump’s political machine, is another in a long line of Trump-appointed agency heads who have made it their top priority to undermine the integrity of the very agencies that they are supposed to be administering.

Plus, while DeJoy has been engineering changes in USPS operations to prevent it from doing its constitutionally mandated job, he also happens to have at least $30 million in stock holdings of the company XPO Logistics, a private competitor to the USPS.

On top of all that, of course, Trump has a slavishly devoted Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, whose leadership will do all it can to prevent passage of any funding to help the beleaguered USPS deal with the onslaught of ballots come November.

Really, this is just another attempt by Trump to cheat his way into re-election, but it is not necessarily going to work.

Readers will recall that back in April, pro-Trump forces tried to cheat their way into a win for a Wisconsin supreme court incumbent, Republican Dan Kelly, by forcing tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters to cast their votes in person during the dangerous days of the early coronavirus plague. The Republican election officials cynically also had closed dozens of polling places across the state, blaming the pandemic, thereby squeezing voters into some of the longest wait times ever seen in any election.

But the voters outfoxed ’em, showing up in droves to dump Kelly and elect challenger Jill Karofsky, a Democrat, and we can do the same thing nationally in November.

In the meantime, I urge everyone worried that our democracy is under siege by the Republican Party to begin writing, calling or visiting their congressional representatives, to demand that Congress find a way to pull the USPS out of the fiscal hole it is in, and into the light of 21st-century political reality.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.


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