search
Sections List
American Journal News

Opinion: Trump's attack on the post office is his greatest threat to democracy yet

Republican leaders have been largely silent regarding the administration’s recent attacks on the post office.

By Katie Scofield - August 18, 2020
Share
Donald Trump

In the face of discouraging poll numbers and criticism of his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, Donald Trump has increased attacks on the legitimacy of November’s elections. He recently threatened not to accept the results of November’s election, stepped up his attacks on mail-in voting, and floated the idea of postponing the election altogether.

The contrast between the public response to Trump’s blatant threat to postpone elections and his slightly more subtle effort to undermine mail-in voting demonstrates why his attack on mail-in voting may be the most effective way for him to delegitimize the 2020 election.

At the end of July, Trump tweeted that the 2020 election would “be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” He then asked: “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy quickly dismissed the possibility of postponing the elections.

McCarthy summarized the Republican response, stating: “Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election.”

In contrast, Republican leaders have been largely silent regarding the administration’s recent attacks on the post office.

Last week, the postmaster general — and Trump donor — Louis DeJoy reassigned or displaced 23 post office executives, a move that critics charge will make the post office run less efficiently.

Prior to this reorganization, DeJoy announced that postal workers would no longer be able to work overtime, even though the pandemic has increased both the demand for packages and the number of postal workers on sick leave.

DeJoy further exacerbated labor shortages by announcing a hiring freeze.

The combined effects of the coronavirus, DeJoy’s new policies, and the Senate’s failure to pass additional stimulus money for the post office has led to a nationwide disruption of the mail service that threatens the integrity of the 2020 elections.

In an interview on Fox News, Trump admitted that starving the post office of funding would effectively end the push for universal mail-in voting. 

This year’s state primaries have already highlighted the difficulties inherent in rapidly increasing participation in voting by mail. In Wisconsin’s presidential primary in April, tens of thousands of ballots arrived after the election date, and 9,000 requested ballots were not received by voters at all.

In New York, two primary races held on June 23 have yet to be called due to difficulties processing mail-in ballots.

In the face of record levels of mail-in voting and chaos within the post office, the United States could see similar problems in November: Thousands of ballots could be sent out too late for voters to use in time, and thousands more could be returned to election offices too late to be counted.

Disruptions in mail service could be particularly problematic because many states, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, require that ballots be received by election officials on or before Election Day, regardless of the postmark date.

The reason Republicans may safely ignore Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and condemn his threat to postpone elections may have to do with public perceptions about the nature of democracy.

Political scientists at Bright Line Watch, an organization focused on monitoring the state of American democracy, compiled a list of 27 political principles that are necessary to preserve democratic governance. They include tenets under categories such as “Rights” (“All adult citizens enjoy the same legal and political rights”) and “Institutions” (“The judiciary is able to effectively limit executive power”).

The study’s authors asked hundreds of fellow political scientists and other people to rank the 27 principles based on which they thought were the most and least important for maintaining a democracy.

Notably, both experts and nonexperts believed that the most important principle was “Elections are conducted, ballots counted, and winners determined without pervasive fraud or manipulation.”

The fact that so many recognize that free elections are the most important factor in maintaining a democracy makes it hard for Trump to do something that obviously subverts free elections — like postponing a race he is clearly losing.

The study’s authors asked respondents whether the 27 principles were actually being practiced in the United States. Here there was disagreement between experts and nonexperts. While 76% of experts believed that elections, up to this point, have been relatively free of fraud, only 44% of nonexperts agreed.

On the other hand, 60% of the public believed that Americans currently have equal voting rights, while only 37% of experts agreed.

Trump’s claims about mail-in voting play into this public perception that elections in the United States are rife with fraud. This gives Republicans less of an incentive to publicly rebuke Trump’s mail-in voting remarks. Only about 0.0025% of mail-in ballots in the 2016 and 2018 elections were potentially fraudulent.

Delays in the delivery of ballots could leave thousands of people disenfranchised. Trump could also use delays in tallying those ballots to sow confusion and increase voters’ perceptions of fraud.

While absentee voting generally does not favor one party over the other, Trump’s complaints about it may discourage Republicans from voting by mail this election cycle. This raises the potential that some states or races that are close on Election Day after in-person votes are tallied may shift in favor of Democratic candidates over time as the tally of mail-in ballots is added to the totals. 

This could tempt Trump to claim that the votes counted later were fraudulent; he tried this strategy in Florida’s highly contested Senate and gubernatorial races in 2018.

In order to combat Trump’s attempts to delegitimize the election, both Democratic and Republican leaders need to remember that the public has a tendency to overestimate voter fraud and underestimate attacks on voting rights.

They need to clearly make the case to the public that threats to the post office are their own form of election fraud.

Voters need to be wary. While it is easy to focus on the more outlandish statements, like threats to postpone the elections, the real threat to democracy will come from the more subtle manipulations of the elections.

Katie Scofield holds a Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University, with a focus on comparative constitutional law. She was awarded a Fulbright grant to study the Ecuadorian constitution and its treatment of human rights. She teaches government at Blinn College in Texas.


AJ News
Get the latest news here first.

Tai News

Newsletter
Read More
Republican resolution shows intent to bypass voters in the 2024 presidential election

Republican resolution shows intent to bypass voters in the 2024 presidential election

By Caitlin Sievers, Arizona Mirror - February 15, 2024
VP Kamala Harris calls Georgia ‘ground zero’ for voting rights in 2024 election season

VP Kamala Harris calls Georgia ‘ground zero’ for voting rights in 2024 election season

By Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder - January 10, 2024
Wisconsin’s fake electors settle lawsuit, acknowledge Biden won in 2020

Wisconsin’s fake electors settle lawsuit, acknowledge Biden won in 2020

By Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner - December 06, 2023
NH Supreme Court closes door on partisan gerrymandering cases, taking lead from SCOTUS

NH Supreme Court closes door on partisan gerrymandering cases, taking lead from SCOTUS

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - December 05, 2023
Tax cuts, teacher pension increases at stake after misinformation-led challenge to 2023 election

Tax cuts, teacher pension increases at stake after misinformation-led challenge to 2023 election

By Natalia Contreras - December 04, 2023
One year out: how a free and fair 2024 presidential election could be under threat

One year out: how a free and fair 2024 presidential election could be under threat

By Zachary Roth - November 03, 2023
AJ News
Latest
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats building a wall on the Oklahoma border

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats building a wall on the Oklahoma border

By Jesse Valentine - February 22, 2024
More than 48,600 18-year-olds are registered to vote in Ohio, a 35% increase from late August

More than 48,600 18-year-olds are registered to vote in Ohio, a 35% increase from late August

By Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal - February 22, 2024
Not if, but when: Parents of slain Parkland students urge Utah lawmakers to pass school safety bill

Not if, but when: Parents of slain Parkland students urge Utah lawmakers to pass school safety bill

By Kyle Dunphey, Utah News Dispatch - February 21, 2024
Key takeaways from Monday’s U.S. Senate Ohio Republican primary debate

Key takeaways from Monday’s U.S. Senate Ohio Republican primary debate

By Nick Evans, Ohio Capital Journal - February 20, 2024
Human, financial costs of gun violence are growing dramatically, health care group says

Human, financial costs of gun violence are growing dramatically, health care group says

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal - February 20, 2024
Mark Robinson gun raffle raises campaign finance questions

Mark Robinson gun raffle raises campaign finance questions

By Jesse Valentine - February 16, 2024