SUFFRAGE is defined as “the right to vote in electing public officials and adopting or rejecting proposed legislation,” according to Britannica.
The exercise of the right to vote by every citizen is the very foundation of a democracy — the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
But what would and should you do as a citizen when the president of the United States is the person who does and will do everything to sabotage your right to vote amid the threat of the greatest public health crisis the world is now facing in a century?
Since December 2019, the coronavirus pandemic has infected almost 21 million people around the world, killing more than 760,633 people. The United States — the most powerful and wealthier nation in the world which used to lead all the countries in the prevention and fight against diseases including pandemics — now accounts for 22% of the death toll worldwide. The threat of COVID-19 to the American people’s lives and safety becomes even more daunting.
There are now more than 5.26 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and the pandemic has taken the lives of more than 167,000 Americans. Just on Thursday, August 14 alone, we grieved the deaths of 1,149 American people. They were somebody’s father, mother, son, daughter, grandmother, grandfather, partner, friend, or colleague — all lost because of COVID-19.
The pandemic threatens the American people’s ability to exercise their right to vote. It’s one of the reasons why Republicans, aligned with the White House, and Democrats have been failing to reach a deal on another round of legislation to help Americans whose livelihoods have been affected.
Among other things that matter to the basic needs of the lives of the American people, the Democrats have been fighting for election assistance and support for the United States Postal Service (USPS) ahead of the November election.
As CBS News reported, State Minority Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that he pushed the White House on August 6 “to include $3.6 billion for the states to hold elections, including vote-by-mail, but the Trump Administration, headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the negotiations, refused.”
“Why are they resisting?” Schumer asked.
This is a valid important question because you would think that everyone in government — the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches — would work together and do everything possible so that every American will be able to cast their sacred vote while keeping us all safe from the threat of COVID-19.
Mail-in voting is a form of absentee ballot by which a ballot is mailed to the home of a registered voter. The voter then fills it out and returns it by postal mail or drops it off in-person into a secure drop box or at a voting center.
Americans have been voting by mail since the 1760s. In fact, absentee ballots were first used for the military during the American Civil War, spearheaded by the Republicans led by President Abraham Lincoln, who wanted Union soldiers to be able to exercise their right to vote from the battlefield.
For many years thereafter, these ballots have been helpful for people who could not go to the polling place on election day. Mail-in-voting has increased voter turnout, especially in places where people can be challenged to go to the polls because of the weather, their work schedule, or other health, logistical and personal reasons. Even President Donald Trump and his family have been casting their votes through mail-in voting.
And now, heading to the November elections, Trump and his supporters have been peddling conspiracy theories about voter fraud in mail-in-voting without basis in fact!
But how blatantly hypocritical can this president be in allowing and even promoting mail-in-voting in Florida, where he is a resident now, while demonizing and stopping voting by mail in other states, especially those that tend to vote Democratic?
EVEN WORSE, Trump is now using and misusing his power and the taxpayers’ money to make it hard and unsafe for people to vote amid the pandemic, by limiting the United States Postal Service (USPS), one of the most respected government institutions in the United States. According to Pew Research, the USPS is the most well-liked government agency in the country with a 91% favorability rating.
“Americans have come to depend on the modern iteration of the Postal Service to quickly deliver lifesaving medicines, election ballots, bills, checks, and other goods through rough weather, world wars, natural disasters, and pandemics. Nearly 6,190 USPS employees, deemed essential workers, have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 60 have died,” Fortune reported.
According to a July 24 report by Fortune, “Trump has repeatedly said that he refuses to sign any legislation with a USPS bailout provision. ‘The Postal Service is a joke,’ said the President in May. His administration nixed a bipartisan attempt to provide $13 billion to the Postal Service in March and previously recommended measures to privatize parts of the service.”
Moving toward this direction for the USPS is the newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally and Republican donor. His prescription to save the cash-strapped institution since he took office in June? Slow mail delivery. Seriously.
A friend in Portland Oregon sounding the alarm as post boxes are being removed from neighborhoods. He sent this pic. pic.twitter.com/yCZPhJqgDQ
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) August 14, 2020
No overtime. No new hiring despite the anticipated surge in mail-in ballots. USPS mailboxes are seen and confirmed being hauled away in trucks. On top of this, Vice News’ Motherboard reported that the “USPS is quietly removing mail sorting machines — the very machines that are responsible for sorting ballots. There’s no official explanation for the changes, and it’s unclear why the machines would be removed rather than simply not used when not needed. The removals and planned removals are reportedly affecting several processing facilities across the U.S.”
“Lawmakers from both parties and postal union leaders have sounded alarms over disruptive changes instituted by DeJoy this summer,” CNN reported. “Democrats claim he is intentionally undermining postal service operations to sabotage mail-in voting in the November election — a charge he denies.”
Democrats have asked the inspector general to launch an inquiry into DeJoy. “DeJoy still owns at least a $30 million equity stake in his former company — a USPS contractor — and that he recently bought stock options for Amazon, a USPS competitor. These holdings likely create a major conflict of interest, ethics experts told CNN, though DeJoy and USPS maintain that he has complied with all federal requirements.”
A survey commissioned by the National Association of Letter Carriers found that 92% of American voters said they supported direct financial aid for USPS as part of the next coronavirus relief bill, the Associated Press reported in May.
Yet, Trump declined to approve the $25 billion in emergency funding the Democrats are negotiating for the cash-strapped USPS as part of the coronavirus legislation.
On Friday, August 14, USPS warns 46 states it can’t guarantee delayed mail-in ballots will be counted!
WHY is Trump doing this?
Here is Trump in his own words, as we have seen and heard on TV and on social media, and as reported by the much-respected National Public Radio (NPR):
“Responding to questions about comments in a Thursday morning interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, who had asked why the White House and congressional Democrats are still miles apart on approving a new relief deal.
Trump said one major factor is the Democrats’ push for an injection of funds into the Postal Service to expand voting by mail.
“They [the Democrats] want $3 1/2 billion for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent — that’s election money basically.
Continued the president: “They want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.
Eight states are mailing ballots to all active voters this fall, including five that have been doing so for years, but most states are not conducting what Trump calls universal mail-in voting.
Trump continued: “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it.”
During his Thursday briefing to reporters, Trump reiterated that stance, saying: “We have to have an honest election, and if it’s not going to be an honest election, I guess people have to sit down and think really long and hard about it.”
“If they’re not going to approve a bill, and the post office, therefore, won’t have the money, and if they’re not going to approve a big bill — a bigger bill — and they’re not going to have the $3 1/2 billion for the universal mail-in votes, how can you have those votes?”
“What [it] would mean is the people will have to go to the polls and vote like the old days, like two years ago, three years ago. … It doesn’t say anybody is taking the vote away, but it means that the universal mail-ins don’t work,” Trump said.
Pressed on what that means for Americans who would be reluctant to vote in public for fear of the coronavirus, Trump said: “They’re going to have to feel safe, and they will be safe. And we will make sure that they’re safe, and we’re not going to have to spend $3 1/2 billion to do it.”
In less than 81 days from today, the American people will be making their most consequential and sacred decision on the direction we think the country should be heading to, and the leader we trust to steer it in that direction.
We, the people, will elect a president who will live up to the sacred oath of upholding and defending the Constitution; a commander-in-chief who will protect and defend the lives and rights of the American people he has sworn to serve and not be served by; a chief executive who will be committed to fighting for the greater good of the American people and not just the privileged few.
We will be electing a president who reflects our values and the true soul of America — someone who can bring out the best in us instead of the worst in us as we all move toward creating a more perfect union.
Trump only sees everything from his lens that will lead him to the pathway to help his re-election bid. Just like how he would push for businesses and schools to re-open just despite what science says about how children and other people can spread the virus despite being asymptomatic.
It’s just like how he would say more than 1,000 people dying in America every day is “insignificant” because it does not fit his narrative even if it has been bending the truth for his personal agenda.
Abraham Lincoln allowed our troops to vote from the battlefield via mail-in-voting so that all Americans’ right to vote may be exercised, protecting the very foundation of our democracy.
We are all on the battlefield in our war against the coronavirus and Trump, the supposed president, should never get in the way in our way to cast our vote safely via mail.
DEMAND funding for the USPS for mail-in ballots to be delivered on time so our votes will be counted.
Stop Trump from suppressing our right to vote amid the pandemic. What he is doing is an affront to our democratic principles and processes enshrined and protected by the Constitution.
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at [email protected], or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.