By Ralph Nader
In an electoral season replete with unpredicted events, five developing situations are intertwined in ways certain to make for a combustible November 3rd.
First, the Republicans’ detailed criminogenic voter suppression strategy that creates delay, confusion, and discord in the handling of voters and their votes is proceeding with increasing intensity.
Second, the number of election volunteers is likely to be seriously diminished because of Covid-19. Many elderly volunteers who staff voting precincts justifiably fear the potential for exposure to the Covid-19 virus. This problem could lead to closing precinct locations and a reduction in voter turnout.
Third, making matters worse is Senate Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell’s opposition to a House-passed four-billion-dollar state-aid package. This grant is to help states with resources needed for accurate and secure processing of the votes.
Fourth, state election officials expect tens of millions of mail ballots by voters avoiding exposure to Covid-19. Some states, such as New York and Kentucky, have already forecast that election results may take a week to be completed after Election Day. States that allow mail ballots to be counted, so long as they are postmarked by Tuesday, Election Day, guarantee that, given the volume, totaling the vote will spill over beyond November 3rd.
Fifth, Donald J. Trump is blaring constantly that the 2020 election will be rigged. Trump has tweeted: “The Democrats are trying to Rig the 2020 Election, plain and simple!” “Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nation’s history – unless that stupidity is ended.” Lies galore, but he likes to repeat them.
Trump will announce victory on election night no matter how many votes he and Biden have. Trump will likely incite street agitations and launch judicial challenges based on wild conspiratorial fantasies even without any evidence of voter fraud by the Democrats.
The way out of this toxic scenario is to build on a large majority of Americans averse to such planned Trumpian chaos and political instability by proposing a two-week grace period after November 3rd. People want every voter to be respected, which means every vote should be counted even if this process requires additional time.
A demand for a grace period needs to start now to build up powerful support from a multi-partisan combination of national, state, and local candidates for public office. Candidates should pledge not to announce their victory or concede defeat until November 17, 2020. Support for this prudent proposal position can be strengthened by retired political leaders, “good government” groups, such as the League of Women Voters, and all varieties of columnists, editorial writers, academic experts, and other opinion leaders.
It is now an undeniable fact that substantial millions of mail-in ballots will not be counted in time. People understand overloaded situations from their own occupations and professions. President Trump is making things worse by generating lawless provocations, with tweets and disruptive actions, and by manipulating the U.S. Postal Service, including sending misleading information about mail balloting to voters. The Washington Post reported: “President Trump … “does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service, because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for that cash-strapped agency.” After all, he did bugle a boastful outlawry no previous president ever dared to utter. “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
The mass media should continue the policy of not projecting winners before the polls close. Premature vote projections can depress voter turnout in states where polls haven’t closed.
A fourteen-day grace period movement will isolate Donald Trump. His bellowings will bounce inside the disbelieved echo chamber of his fabrications. Also, a two-week hiatus will provide time for passions to be cooled and for a restored public confidence that our public servants and volunteers can achieve optimal accuracy for electoral legitimacy.
Candidate Biden should not tarry in declaring that he will not ask for a concession from candidate Trump until at least November 17th. Mr. Trump will not make a reciprocal pledge so long as his documented campaign strategy is to sow doubt from all directions – domestic and abroad – on the integrity of the electoral process. Trump’s unwillingness to play fair and square, against a deep consensus behind a grace period, will further increase the futility of his destructive contrivances.
With such large stakes for our fragile democracy, we cannot afford to bypass such a course of action that will assure a peaceful transition in accord with the rule of law. Providing a decent interval for a full count of all the votes is a critical step for our democracy.