August 14, 2020
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Fight for the Right To Vote and To Have All Votes Counted
By Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker
Voter suppression always plays a role in the US elections. In 2020 it may play a bigger role than ever before. President Trump is behind in national polls and in the key states. Unless things change, the only path to his re-election is suppressing the vote.
On multiple occasions Trump has admitted he seeks to suppress the vote in 2020. He is openly attempting to sabotage and delegitimize an election he is likely to lose badly. His newly-appointed Postmaster General is slowing down the mail in order to obstruct mail-in balloting during the pandemic. He is already calling the election rigged. For over a year he has been signaling to right-wing racist militias that there will be civil war if he is removed from office. Trump may not accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.
On March 30, President Trump said in an interview on FOX if there was high voter turnout “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Trump was explaining why he opposed more money being spent to help states conduct the 2020 election during the pandemic. More recently Trump floated the idea of delaying the November 3 election, an idea rejected by even Republican allies and something he does not have the power to do.
The Hawkins/Walker campaign will use its status as ballot-qualified candidates to fight for democracy. Everyone who wants to vote should be able to do so and every vote should be counted accurately.
The Democrats Suppress People Right To Vote For Candidates Who Stand With The People
But even as the threat to our right to vote from Trump is imminent, the truth is that both major parties engage in voter suppression. Right now, the Hawkins/Walker campaign is facing the tremendous challenge of getting on the ballot across the country. Collecting signatures for ballot access is always difficult but with the COVID pandemic it is uniquely difficult. The Democrats’ efforts to prevent us from being on the ballot is a form of voter suppression.
Party suppression is a form of voter suppression. Green candidates bring more voters to the polls. Exit polls in 2016 showed that 61% of people who voted for the Green presidential candidate Jill Stein would have stayed home if she were not on the ballot. The Democratic Party is challenging Green ballot access petitions across the country in 2020 to knock them off state ballots. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York got a law passed in April under the cover of the pandemic that triples the votes the Green Party will need in 2020 to retain its ballot line.
People are being forced in the midst of a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 people in the US to gather signatures to get on the ballot. They are risking their health to participate in democracy in a meaningful way. Most people are not represented by the Democratic or Republican Party. These are the parties of the millionaires and billionaires. Neither party is supporting super-majority positions including Medicare for all, a robust Green New Deal, free public education from pre-K through college, ending the wealth divide, taxing the wealthy, and ending the never-ending wars. In many states, Greens are forced to collect many thousands of signatures just to be on the ballot.
In 2020 Election Day will not just be November 3, 2020 but will begin six weeks before that day when mail-in balloting begins in some states and will end a month or more later when all the mail-in ballots are counted. FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub has warned that we are unlikely to know the results on the night of the election.
Hawkins/Walker will use its legal status as candidates on the ballot to insist that every vote is counted. We know that work to suppress the vote is already occurring, particularly at the US Postal Service at Trump’s direction and in the removal of people from voter registration lists. We are sounding the alarm so everyone in authority as well as election integrity activists take action now against the undermining of the election.
Traditional Tools of Voter Suppression
This election has become very difficult for Donald Trump. The COVID pandemic has killed more than 160,000 people and it is likely that 250,000 will be dead by Election Day. There have been more than 35 million jobs lost and the economy has shrunk on an annual rate of 35 percent. These are crises that have never been seen before and are making Trump’s re-election unlikely. So Trump and the Republicans are escalating their efforts to suppress the vote. At least 17 million voters have been purged from voter rolls since the 2016 election.
The Republican Party has used voter suppression as a strategy for decades. Their efforts target communities of color and young voters who are less likely to vote for them.
The common suppression tactics include purging voters from the rolls, unreasonable voter ID requirements, restricting voter registration, cutting the number of polling places in minority communities, felony disenfranchisement, not counting provisional ballots, and intimidation at the polls. The Hawkins/Walker campaign has already urged people to come to the polls to stand up against intimidation.
We have also spoken out against Republican efforts to deny voting rights to people in Florida with felony convictions, even though two-thirds of Floridians voted to give these people their voting rights.
The ACLU in “Block The Vote: Voter Suppression 2020” reports how these tactics have impacted voting in the past:
- Seventy percent of Georgia voters purged in 2018 were Black.
- Across the country, one in 13 Black Americans cannot vote due to disenfranchisement laws.
- One-third of voters who have a disability report difficulty voting.
- Only 40 percent of polling places fully accommodate people with disabilities.
- Across the country, counties with larger minority populations have fewer polling sites and poll workers per voter.
- In New Hampshire, where six in ten college students come from out of state, the state is trying to block residents with out of state drivers’ licenses from voting.
There is a lot of litigation around voting issues for the 2020 election. The Republican Party is fighting in court to suppress the vote and not allow states to make voting easier. They have a more than $20 million dollar litigation fund provided by large donations from more than two dozen billionaires who have benefited from Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy. Trump has emphasized the importance of this litigation saying in June, “My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits. We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don’t win those lawsuits, I think—I think it puts the election at risk.”
A major component to undermining democracy in the United States is the packing of the Supreme Court and other federal courts with right-wingers. The 2020 election could end up in front of the Supreme Court and the signs are not good judging from the four most recent Supreme Court decisions on voting rights issues. The court’s conservative majority rejected attempts by litigants to get existing law changed to make it easier to vote amid COVID-19. The court has consistently shown hostility to voting rights and democracy, although that trend was interrupted on Thursday, August 13, when in a 6-3 decision they denied hearing a Republican lawsuit and left intact a consent decree allowing Rhode Island voters to mail their ballots without having to sign them in front of two witnesses or a notary.
Mail-In Voting and the Destruction of the Postal Service
Much of this litigation concerns the expansion of mail-in voting, which is necessary to ensure everyone can vote in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the danger of voting in person, the Hawkins/Walker campaign, along with others, has been calling for a universal mail-in voting option.
President Trump opposes people voting by mail and is doing all he can to undermine the US Post Service in order to prevent the timely delivery of ballots by mail. The number of Americans voting by mail is expected to surge across the nation as voters seek to avoid the risk of catching COVID-19 at the polls.
On Thursday, August 13, Trump openly said he opposed emergency funding for election operations and the Postal Service because it could allow more people to vote by mail.
Trump appointed Louis DeJoy, a Trump crony to be the Postmaster General. DeJoy has no experience in the agency, is a prominent Trump donor, deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee and the former lead fundraiser for the Republican National Committee. DeJoy is heavily invested in the re-election of Trump. He has donated more than $2.5 million to the Republican Party and its candidates. This year he has already given approximately $360,000 to a Super PAC supporting Trump’s reelection.
On August 7, in a “Friday Night Massacre,” DeJoy fired people with experience running the Postal Service, including the ouster of top executives from key posts and the reshuffling of more than two dozen other officials and operational managers. Twenty-three postal executives were reassigned or displaced in a new organizational structure that centralizes power around DeJoy. He has also put in place a hiring freeze and is pushing for early retirements.
Trump is doing all he can do to undermine the Postal Service. On August 11, the head of the Iowa Postal Workers Union alleged that equipment used to process mail for delivery—notably sorting machines—is being removed from Postal Service facilities to hinder the ability to process mail and to add to the mail slowdown.
DeJoy put in place changes that included prohibiting overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early, and requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind if it means extra trips or late delivery on routes. This has already resulted in dramatic mail slowdowns across the nation and is raising concerns that voting by mail will cause mounting backlogs that could affect the election.
Delays in the mail have resulted in disqualified ballots. This year, tens of thousands of ballots across the country have been disqualified in primaries due to not arriving on time. In Wisconsin, 2,659 ballots were disqualified because they arrived after the April 13 deadline. In California, 70,330 ballots were disqualified because they missed the deadline, according to the Associated Press.
The USPS’ general counsel also sent a letter to state election officials informing them they should spend nearly triple the per-ballot postage cost for mail-in voting. The letter, first reported by The Spokesman-Review in Washington state, recommended that election officials use first-class mail to send election materials, warning that the bulk rate may result in untimely delivery of election materials.
Hawkins/Walker supports making mail-in voting easier especially during this pandemic. We also support the Democracy Docket’s “four pillars” for mail-in voting in the 2020 election:
- The government should prepay the postage for mail-in ballots.
- Ballots postmarked before or on Election Day are counted (as opposed to counting only ballots received by Election Day).
- Signature requirements for mail-in ballots should be administered in a voter-friendly way. Election officials across the country should be required to contact voters before their ballots are ruled invalid because the signature on the ballot does not match the signature election officials have on file.
- Individuals or groups should be allowed to collect the ballots of people and turn them in (to ease voting for people who might not have easy access to mail services).
Hawkins/Walker Will FIght the Open Theft of the 2020 Election
Our campaign will do all it can to ensure the integrity of the 2020 election before, during, and after Election Day. We urge all of our supporters to be part of a nationwide team of democracy activists dedicated to fighting voter suppression and false vote counts. We will have standing, as candidates on the ballot, to call for audits, recounts, and engage in litigation to ensure the 2020 election is fair.
We will also continue to advocate for automatic voter registration, same day registration on Election Day, voter verified paper ballots, public audits, easy recounts, and open software for all voting machines. Hawkins/Walker will also advocate for lowering the threshold of signatures needed for ballot access as well as electronic gathering of signatures. If the US is going to call itself a democracy it needs lots of improvements in who votes, how they vote, and how votes are counted. This is part of our democracy agenda.
Trump has predicted the 2020 election will be the “greatest election disaster in history” and seems to be doing all he can to ensure that result. We will do all we can to ensure that all who want to vote can vote and that all votes are counted.