Struggling to Vote in Trump Land

Long lines for early voting in Georgia. A few voters waited up to ten hours to cast a ballot

M. Davout

Whenever I teach Introduction to American Government, a course for freshman, I give a lecture on the notorious Bush v. Gore 2000 presidential election and use the Florida recount story to teach a basic lesson about U.S. politics: elections are not an exact science because vote totals in any given election are always only approximations. In the period leading up to the 2000 fiasco, in typical nationwide elections upwards of a million votes were tossed as uncountable for various reasons.

The reasons for the imprecision of election tallies are several but the three that I highlight to my students are: (1) the wide variation across jurisdictions in the kind, quality and age of voting technology and in the reliable application of procedures and standards (as evidenced in 2000 in the faulty punch hole devices in South Florida that resulted in many thousands of uncounted ballots); (2) the amateur status of poll workers (an hour or two of “training” qualified me to serve at a polling station during my graduate school days); and (3) the partisanship of election officials (as notoriously exemplified in 2018 by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s contested “oversight” of the close election that resulted in his election as Georgia governor). Since 2000, many states adopted computerized voting systems in what turned out to be the false expectation that precision in voting tallies could be achieved through digitization.

We have gotten past presidential elections only approximately right and we can expect this upcoming one to be no more than approximately right. And given the unprecedented number of requests for absentee ballots, state and county switches to mail-in balloting systems during this pandemic, slow-downs in mail delivery engineered by Trump’s postmaster general, and Trump’s unrelenting campaign to de-legitimize absentee and mail-in ballots, the likelihood is that the tally of uncounted ballots will be higher than ever this November. As a longtime absentee ballot voter, my recent experience with both the local election board and local mail delivery service does not give me confidence.

I mailed my absentee ballot request for the November 3 election in mid-August and was still waiting for a ballot in late September. I emailed the local election board and was told that they couldn’t find my paper ballot request (curiously, my wife’s request, which had been dropped off in a separate envelope with mine, was processed). I was instructed to file another request, this time electronically, which I immediately did. Notified by email that my absentee ballot was mailed October 1, I am still waiting for its arrival two weeks later. Meanwhile, I did receive an absentee ballot by mail but it was my neighbor’s and this botched delivery only increased my unease.        

When I think of the many voters across the country who might encounter similar problems and have less time and energy than I have to follow up on undelivered or delayed absentee ballots, I begin to wonder if the imprecision of November’s tallies will be on such a scale as to change the outcome. And, if not change it, then leave it open to dispute, a dispute to be settled by a Supreme Court with justices who are increasingly conservative and in three cases beholden to the man who nominated them.  It’s what Trump is counting on for “victory.”

M. Davout, a professor of political science, teaches in the Deep South.

13 thoughts on “Struggling to Vote in Trump Land

  1. In reference to Bush v. Gore, that was a case decided with undue haste, to put it mildly. And a 5-4 decision! You’d think the Supreme Court would want to be unanimous, or nearly so, in a decision choosing the next president.

    Truly it was a rotten decision, and did you know that Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Brett Kavanaugh and now Amy Coney Barrett, worked for the Republican side in Bush v. Gore? Their loyalty rewards have now been redeemed.

    https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a34374103/amy-coney-barrett-bush-v-gore

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If election tallies were affected EVENLY by good old human lack of perfection, statistically speaking the overall outcome would be minimally affected. And this would be more true if we could get rid of the wretched Electoral College so that my vote had equal weight with the gun-toting racist yahoo in Idaho (I love to pick on that state, which I know has some magnificent landscapes but has never been graced by my physical presence!). [That said, I must mention that just a few miles from where I live in “liberal” Connecticut a “Minute Men Militia” affiliate has openly advertised its presence.] Blatant manipulation–one is tempted to say “interference,” with no Russian participation–by government entities is quite outrageous, and in the many elections I’ve lived thru I must say I’ve never previously seen a sitting POTUS publicly announce that he is acting to suppress voting. And this is one promise we can expect Team Trump to carry to conclusion.

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  3. More than 10-hour wait and long lines as early voting starts in Georgia. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/oct/13/more-than-10-hour-wait-and-long-lines-as-early-voting-starts-in-georgia?fbclid=IwAR3-kEJVycQNDF76UtBwPHzODJyko4GPw9rSkXDsExmFlnNfGJbOaWSZKEI

    Once upon a time, I was a Democratic Ward Chairman. It was my job to find people willing and able to work the polls as judges etc. Their pay was less than minimum wage per hour. It was always a bit dicey, just when you thought you had a starting lineup, someone would be a no-show or call off.

    The Republicans and Democrats had their own official at the polls. I guess in keeping with the Libertarian Philosophy they were not organized enough to have a representative at the polls.

    What I did observe from these people running the polls was scrupulously honest behavior.

    Voter suppression one way or another now seems to be a guiding principle for the GOP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I’ve mentioned previously, I was willing to serve as a “monitor” at my polling place until I found it involved committing to a 16-hour day, no other option. That was the end of that notion.

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  4. This is MUST READ….chilling…. DT has to go….
    https://harpers.org/archive/2020/11/the-enemies-briefcase-secret-powers-of-the-presidency/
    “a national emergency on the grounds of national security, the president would have more than 120 statutory emergency powers” at his disposal, potentially enabling him to postpone the election. “It looks as though a rolling coup is underway, with Trump and his confederates testing the waters for ways to scupper the election,”

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    1. Looking at the incumbent’s mental state, I suggest these notions not be dismissed as “too far out.” I don’t have time to read the article linked to, but I could foresee “false flag” urban violence attributed to “antifa” in several cities as the excuse for declaring Martial Law. Though new Covid cases are reportedly soaring in certain areas in US (and Europe), I don’t think Trump would try to use the pandemic as his rationale, though I myself raised that possibility weeks, if not months, ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Anecdotally, in a comment on Jaime Harrison’s South Carolina race, a NY Times reader remarked that the Rethuglicans have removed all ballot-drop boxes in the state, saying that they lead to fraud. The reader mailed in his ballot.

    Here in Cleveland, my husband and I requested mail-in ballots, and they arrived as promised. We dropped them off at a box at our Board of Elections, and using the tracking provision the BOE set up, I was able to determine that our ballots have been received for counting.

    Regarding the lessons Davout teaches his students, I’d add a fourth point: “Diebold, 2004.”

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  6. Off subject fits in with the opinions some of us have on the Democratic Party and it’s “Leadership”. Vichy Democrats and Diane Feinstein fits in to the role of Marshall Pétain.

    I have at times posted about the limp knee, spineless response from the Democrats to the Republicans.. It was on full display when a mask-less Diane Feinstein hugged a mask-less Lindsay Graham at the conclusion of Supreme Court Hearings.

    No one is supposed to be hugging anyone outside of their family right now, never mind hugging a possible vector when you are in a high-risk category for a deadly virus while neither party wears a mask.

    This is Real People:

    As Republicans wrap up the Amy Coney Barrett hearing with plans to vote, Dianne Feinstein praises Lindsey Graham: “I just want to thank you. This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” she tells him. “Thank you so much for your leadership.”

    “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” Feinstein told committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who was instrumental in orchestrating this hearing, reversing his promise of four years ago not to hold a confirmation hearing in the final year of Trump’s term.

    Graham also participated in the months long blockade of Judge Merrick Garland, allowing the GOP to effectively steal the seat Barack Obama should have filled in the final year of his presidency.

    And, for this hearing, Graham refused to require that all participants be tested for COVID-19 in advance, despite the fact that Barrett’s nomination celebration, a super spreader event, had likely resulted in the infection of two GOP senators who sit on the judiciary committee, and indeed participated in the hearings in person, delivering their remarks without masks. Graham personally refused to be tested himself, despite exposure to infected individuals. “Thank you so much for your leadership,” she added.
    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/feinstein-graham-hug-photo-barrett-hearing.html

    WOW, some people go by the words when they go low, we go high in other words we do not stoop to their level. OK, what I see here with Diane Feinstein is total subjugation and unconditional surrender. Feinstein is supposed to be a Democratic leader?? Kick me again Lindsay, I will keep smiling. I am disgusted with her performance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Sen. Feinstein has been bad news for a long time now, poster girl for Corporate-Controlled Dems. She’s well over 80, I think, so probably won’t be around much longer. (Now, don’t nobody accuse me of wishing her ill!) I think some of Sen. Graham’s own staff tested Covid-positive, yes? Such a delicious irony that Judge Barrett herself apparently spread the virus in D.C., even infecting Pres. of Notre Dame, who accompanied her on her triumphant tour of nation’s capital. That would be more proof that one can recover from Covid, be apparently asymptomatic, but still a menace to others (not just ideologically!).

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Feinstein, like Pelosi and other longserving pols, has profited greatly from the system. She’s a swamp creature and her allegiance is to her donors.

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