- President Donald Trump has repeatedly hit back against calls to expand vote-by-mail access, saying the process is corrupt with voter fraud and suggesting it favors Democrats.
- However, studies show that there is no widespread voter fraud issue in the U.S. In fact, a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice said in the rate of voter fraud in the U.S. was somewhere between 0.00004% to 0.0009%.
- Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle Obama both publically backed expanding vote-by-mail access over the weekend, with the former president criticizing Wisconsin for holding in-person voting and encouraging the public to check the facts behind voting by mail.
Trump Speaks Out Against Expanding Vote-By-Mail
The former president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, have thrust their support behind voting-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic as the nationwide conversation about fair, safe, and accessible voting grows.
The coronavirus outbreaks have forced some states under stay-at-home orders to postpone primary elections. Because of this, several politicians and celebrities have been ramping up calls for expanded access to voting by mail.
However, President Donald Trump has been a vocal opponent against the move. Instead, he has continued to push for in-person-voting during the pandemic, despite the fact that doing so contradicts social distancing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his own coronavirus task force’s recommendations against gatherings of more than 10.
In fact, the CDC specifically recommends states “encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction” given the coronavirus threat.
At a press briefing last Tuesday, the president said, “Mail ballots — they cheat. OK? People cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters.”
“The mail ballots are corrupt in my opinion, and they collect them, and they get people to go in and sign them, and then there are forgeries in many cases. It’s a horrible thing.”
The president has continued to use that same rhetoric on social media and has also suggested that the process would be harmful for Republicans.
Last month, he told Fox News that he opposed funding for mail-in voting as part of the stimulus bill because, “They had things, levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Trump on March 30 on why he opposed funding for mail-in voting as part of a coronavirus stimulus bill: “They have things, levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” pic.twitter.com/kpDQX3zxY8— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 8, 2020
Some have viewed Trump’s comments as hypocritical since Trump himself cast an absentee ballot by mail in last month’s Florida Republican primary. He also voted absentee in the 2018 midterms as well. When asked about this contradiction in his messaging, he said it was fine “because I’m allowed to” vote by mail while living outside the state of Florida. At the time, he also said, “I think if you vote, you should go.”
Other prominent members of the Trump administration have also repeatedly voted absentee with mail-in ballots, according to The New York Times, including Vice President Mike Pence.
Debunking Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims
The bigger issue here, as many news outlets have since pointed out, is that Trump’s claims about voter fraud are false. Voting fraud in the U.S. is actually pretty rare.
Several studies have confirmed that there is no widespread voter fraud issue in the country and millions of Americans vote-by-mail every year without problems.
According to the Associated Press, it is true that some election studies have shown a slightly higher incidence of mail-in voting fraud compared with in-person voting, but the overall risk is extremely low. In fact, a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice said in the rate of voter fraud in the U.S. was somewhere between 0.00004% to 0.0009% off all votes.
Ari Berman, a leading expert on voting rights told CNN. “This is a flat-out lie from the President.”
“We have tons of data on the prevalence of voter fraud in this country, and it’s a very small problem, whether you vote in-person or by mail. In Democratic-controlled states like Oregon and Republican-controlled states like Utah, there has been no evidence of significant voter fraud.”
Something important to note is that Trump has peddled theories about voter fraud before. He even set up a commission to investigate the issue, but the panel disbanded in 2018 without ever finding evidence to support his claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, costing him the popular vote.
Critics of Trump’s rhetoric have also pointed out that though instances are rare, one of the most serious and credible allegations of absentee ballot fraud in decades was actually designed to help a Republican.
During the 2018 race for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, a Republican operative was charged with election fraud after rounding up absentee ballots for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris. State election officials refused to certify the results and held a redo election in 2019.
However, experts also use this case as an example that fraud big enough to sway at election outcome will likely be detected.
Despite Trump’s claims, several Republican leaders across the country have been pushing voters to cast ballots by mail given the current health concerns. Among them are the Republican governors or secretaries of state in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Iowa.
Obama’s Back Vote-By-Mail Expansions
The Obamas have stayed mostly on the sidelines during the 2020 election process so far, but now they’ve spoken out in support of expanding vote-by-mail access. On Friday, former President Obama weighed in on the issue while criticizing Wisconson’s decision to hold in-person voting.
“No one should be forced to choose between their right to vote and their right to stay healthy like the debacle in Wisconsin this week,” he tweeted, sharing a New York Times article.
Public health experts have warned that in-person voting during the pandemic puts voters and poll workers at risk. Last week, Wisconsin became a state at the front of the issue when it held its election amid a stay-at-home order issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Evers made a last-minute attempt to postpone the election that was blocked by courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Reports and images on social media later showed voters waiting in long lines at the few open polling locations. By Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it was tracking the potential spread of the coronavirus during the election, but cases that were contracted as a result of in-person voting might not be known for some time.
“Everyone should have the right to vote safely, and we have the power to make that happen. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Obama added in another tweet.
“Let’s not use the tragedy of a pandemic to compromise our democracy. Check the facts of vote by mail,” he continued, sharing a link to a New York Times story about debunking Trump’s claims that the process favors Democrats.
Michelle Obama and her organization, When We All Vote, also announced that they will back legislation aimed at expanding vote-by-mail options, online voter registration, and early voting. She launched the organization in 2018, with co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw.
“There is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our country; making the democracy we all cherish more accessible; and protecting our neighbors, friends and loved ones as they participate in this cornerstone of American life,” she said in a statement.
The issue of voter access brought forth during the pandemic has also inspired change in other states. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northan announced that he signed a series of new measures into law aimed at expanding voter access.
The new legislation will establish Election Day as a holiday and expands early voting to be allowed 45 days before an election without a stated reason. It also removes the requirement that voters show ID before casting a ballot
“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam said in a statement. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Republicans Say They Will Block Bill To Avert Government Shutdown and Debt Default
Democrats argue the bill is necessary to prevent an economic catastrophe.
Democrats Introduce Legislation
Democrats in the House and Senate unveiled sweeping legislation Monday that aimed to keep the government funded through early December, lift the federal debt limit, and provide around $35 billion for Afghan refugees and natural disaster recovery.
The bill is needed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires next week. It is also necessary to prevent the Treasury Department from reaching the limit of its borrowing authority, which would trigger the U.S. to default on its debt for the first time ever.
For weeks, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged Congress to raise the federal debt limit, also known as the debt ceiling, warning that the department will soon exhaust all of its measures to keep the federal government within its legal borrowing limit.
If the U.S. were to default, it would be unable to pay its debts, sending massive shockwaves through the financial system.
Democrats have painted the bill as crucial to avert an economic doomsday that would massively undermine recovery.
They argue that the combination of a government shutdown and a debt default would destabilize global markets and leave millions of Americans without essential aid.
Republicans Vow to Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling
Despite the considerable threats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly said Republicans will not vote to increase the debt ceiling, arguing that Democrats should do it without their help because they are pushing trillions of dollars in new spending priorities.
Democrats have slammed the Republican leader’s stance as hypocritical. They point out that while it is true they are proposing new spending, it has not been approved yet, and the debt that currently risks default has been incurred by both parties.
Democrats also noted that trillions of dollars were added to the federal debt under former President Donald Trump, which is more than what has been added by President Joe Biden. As a result, Republicans raised the debt ceiling three times during the Trump administration with the support of Democrats.
McConnell, however, remains unlikely to budge. On Monday, White House officials said McConnell has not outlined any requests or areas of negotiation in exchange for support of the legislation.
While the bill is expected to pass the House, it appears all but doomed in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to break the filibuster.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Politico)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Survives Recall
Experts say the outcome should act as a warning for Republicans who tie themselves to former President Donald Trump and attempt to undermine election results by promoting false voter fraud claims.
Recall Effort Fails
After seven months and an estimated $276 million in taxpayer money, the Republican-led effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) failed Tuesday.
Just under 70% of the votes have been reported as of Wednesday morning, showing that “no” on the recall received 63.9% of the vote. That’s nearly twice as many votes as “yes,” which had 36.1%.
According to The Washington Post, even if the margin narrows as more votes are counted, this still marks one of the biggest rejections of any recall effort in America over the last century.
Analysts say the historic rebuke was driven by high Democratic turnout and broader fears over resurging COVID cases.
While the Delta variant continues to push new infections to record highs in many parts of the country with lax mask rules and low vaccination rates, California, once a global epicenter of the pandemic, now has one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest new caseloads in the nation.
Newsom has continually tried to convince voters that those figures are the results of his vaccine and masking policies, which have been some of the most aggressive in the U.S.
Given that polls showed the pandemic was the top concern for California voters, it is clear that the majority favored his policies over those of his competitors. Larry Elder, the Republican talk radio host of led the field of 46 challengers, ran on a platform of getting rid of essentially all COVID restrictions.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Newsom painted the recall’s failure not only as a win for Democratic coronavirus policies but also for Democracy at large.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic,” he said. “We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression.”
“I think about just in the last few days and the former president put out saying this election was rigged,” he continued. “Democracy is not a football. You don’t throw it around. That’s more like a, I don’t know, antique vase. You can drop it and smashing a million different pieces. And that’s what we’re capable of doing if we don’t stand up to meet the moment and push back.”
“I said this many, many times on the campaign trail, we may have defeated Trump, but Trump-ism is not dead in this country. The Big Lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country.”
A Warning for Republicans
Newsom’s remarks took aim at the efforts by Elder and other Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — who over the last week have claimed falsely and without evidence that voter fraud helped secured the governor’s win before Election Day even took place.
While it is currently unknown whether that narrative may have prompted more Republican voters to stay home, Newsom’s effort to cast Edler as a Trump-like candidate and the recall as an undemocratic, Republican power grab appears to have been effective.
Now, political strategists say that the outcome of the recall should serve as a warning that Republicans who pin themselves to Trump and his Big Lie playbook may be hurt more in certain states.
“The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office,” The New York Times explained.
Even outside of a strongly blue state like California, analysts say this strategy will also be effective with similar candidates in battleground states like Georgia, Arizona, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, which will be essential to deciding control of the Senate.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Justice Department Sues Texas Over Abortion Ban
The department claims the Texas law violates past Supreme Court precedents on abortion and infringes on Constitutional protections.
Biden Administration Takes Aim at Texas Law
The Department of Justice sued Texas on Thursday in an attempt to block the state’s newly enacted law that effectively prohibits all abortions by banning the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The abortion law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who helps a person terminate their pregnancy after six weeks.
In its lawsuit, the Justice Department argued that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it violates past Supreme Court precedents through a technical loophole.
While numerous other states have passed similar laws banning abortion after about six weeks, federal judges have struck down those measures on the grounds that they are inconsistent with Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that states cannot prevent someone from seeking an abortion before a fetus can viably live outside the womb, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.
The Texas law, however, skirts the high court decisions by deputizing citizens to enforce the law rather than state government officials, taking the state out of the equation entirely and protecting it from legal responsibility.
Individuals who do so do not have to prove any personal injury or connection to those they take legal action against, which can range from abortion providers to rideshare drivers who take someone to a clinic.
If their lawsuit is successful, the citizen is entitled to a $10,000 award.
DOJ Lawsuit Targets Constitutionality
During a press conference detailing the DOJ lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick Garland referred to the enforcement mechanism as “an unprecedented” effort with the “obvious and expressly acknowledged intention” to prevent Texans from their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear,” Garland said, adding that the provision of the law allowing civilians “to serve as bounty hunters” may become “a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”
The Justice Department argued that the Texas policy violates equal protection guarantees under the 14th Amendment as well as the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which establishes that the Constitution and federal law generally take precedence over state law.
The lawsuit also claimed that the law interferes with the constitutional obligation of federal employees to provide access to abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, to people who are under the care of federal agencies or contractors such as those in prisons.
Both Sides See Path to Supreme Court
While proponents of abortion rights applauded the Justice Department’s legal challenge, officials in Texas defended the law and accused the Biden administration of filing the lawsuit for political reasons.
“President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn,” a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), said in a statement.
“We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”
The DOJ’s suit will now be decided by a federal judge for the Western District of Texas, based in Austin.
Depending on how that court rules, either opponents or supporters of the abortion ban are expected to appeal the case, sending it to the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal and likely ultimately placing the matter before the Supreme Court again in a matter of months.
The Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect by declining to approve an emergency petition to block the measure last week, but it did not rule on the constitutionality of the policy.
As a result, the Justice Department’s legal challenge could force the high court to hear another facet of the law that it has not yet considered if it decides to see the case.