Going To Battle For the Right To Vote
When our country was being formed in the middle of a war, rapid reliable communications were essential. So essential, that the colonies basically took the system established for them by England and created a mail and messenger system, relying on horseback delivery, to provide that network.
In 1775, the Continental Congress formalized this structure and appointed Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General. The postal service has been a vital component of our nation and society ever since. It was what George Washington and Benjamin Franklin saw as a way to “bind the country together.”
As far back as the Civil War, Americans have had the ability to exercise their right to vote – by mail. Recent polling shows that 91 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the United States Postal Service (USPS). Yet clearly, it is going to take another war to preserve not only the right to vote but to do so by mail.
Unconstrained by facts
In a desperate attempt to secure reelection, Donald Trump has upped his game to disenfranchise millions of Americans of their right to vote by declaring war on the USPS over mail-in voting. This from a man who votes, along with his own family, by mail. But clearly, and likely correctly, he believes letting others vote by mail will reduce his odds considerably.
Unconstrained by history, Trump has launched attacks, claiming, as usual, without factual basis, that ballots will be lost, and there will be fraud. His paranoia was reflected when he moved to reduce the USPS budget by $25 billion. His Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy – who by the way has a $30 million stake in a company currently doing business with the USPS – carried out the plan by beginning to dismantle the mail sorting and delivery capability of the postal service, pulling hundreds of machines and equipment out of service.
DeJoy started snatching up the big blue mailboxes we all grew up seeing on street corners. He went so far as to advise states that they should not rely on the USPS for timely delivery of ballots to voters or timely return of ballots.
Attacks are unfounded
Even Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump’s attacks were unfounded. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi summoned the House back in session during a convention recess to address the mess. Congress was deluged by complaints from seniors and veterans over delays in getting their mail-order drugs. Rural America, commonly viewed as Trump country, depends on the mail for everything from medicine to banking to basic communication. After the business community weighed in on how vital the USPS is to commerce in general, the House and Senate both convened hearings to reverse Trump’s course.
Things went from bad to worse. Democratic attorneys general from at least 20 states, including Colorado’s Phil Weiser, responded with a multi-pronged legal effort to roll back the DeJoy-led changes that have already disrupted mail delivery across the country.
Worried about his own personal credibility amid accusations that Trump and his appointees were intentionally working to undermine mail-in voting, DeJoy hired a public relations firm, and put out a statement announcing that he was terminating any more changes until after the election. However, even after the lashing administered in the Congressional hearings, he refused to reverse the changes already made, including the removal of high-volume letter sorters.
Vote, vote, vote
Now for some truth. Colorado has a mail-in voting system that is the envy of the country. Effectively managed by Secretary of State Jena Griswold and established and expanded by her predecessors – Republican and Democrat alike – the percentages of eligible voters participating, particularly among younger voters, continues to climb, with literally no claims of voter fraud.
Hawaii, Washington, and Utah all have all mail-in voting with not a hint of scandal or fraud. Vermont, California, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey have expanded mail-in voting systems in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are now only eight states that will not let you get a mail-in ballot.
It is insane for Trump to want us to risk our lives and health in the middle of a pandemic to vote by standing in lines for hours on Election Day. The U.S. now leads the world in the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths. What does it say about a president who feels that his best path to reelection is to reduce the number of Americans voting?
He does not want to hear from the people; make sure he hears from you. Vote. Tell your family and friends in other states to vote, and vote early to avoid lines.
If you want to preserve your right to vote, it is time to go to battle.
Penfield W. Tate III is an attorney in Denver. He represented Park Hill in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1997 to 2000, and in the State Senate from 2001 to February 2003. A candidate for mayor of Denver in 2019, Tate’s column returned to these pages last December. He lives in Park Hill.