Lest we change course, we are hurtling toward a disaster of epic proportions.
Four years ago, Russian agents interfered to aid Donald Trump with propaganda and other dishonest meddling. There’s no reason to think that they or someone else won’t try something this year; we must be ready, and there are troubling signs to the contrary.
But now another, probably bigger enemy to safe voting is here: coronavirus. Polling sites are typically crowded, and election workers are usually older, as are millions of voters. Business as usual will get people killed, and voters know it.
The solution is in the mail. Just as Amazon and other delivery outfits have connected homebound people with goods, the Post Office can get Americans their ballots and get those ballots back to be counted.
Primary elections since March have been a beta test of this new reality, as state after state has moved to boost postal ballots, joining the five states with 100% mail voting: Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado and Utah. Despite typically low vote totals, a flood of mail-in ballots was hard for many jurisdictions to handle.
November must, must, must work better, or 2020 will make 2000 look like child’s play.
Step one is getting people ballots, efficiently. Smartly, New Jersey automatically mailed them to all voters in this month’s primary. California is doing the same for the general election in November. New York, with the most restrictive laws in the country, required voters to take the extra step to request ballots, which caused terrible delays and disenfranchised thousands.
Still, that’s better than places like Texas, where the state is fighting efforts for people to vote from home.
Trump’s partisan lie that only Democrats want mail ballots, that it’s a plot against the GOP, is garbage, like much of what he spews. Perhaps the most Republican-leaning state in the union is Utah.
But knowing how to do it and doing it aren’t the same. The Post Office needs money to keep the mail moving efficiently. And states need money desperately to spin up the machines and staff needed to count the ballots accurately. The Empire State is still tallying primary contests from more than a month ago.
The only way to avert electoral chaos, especially in swing states where coronavirus might be raging, is to surge federal funding so vote-counters can get their acts together. Right now.