Opinion: Trump attempts to sway election results through voter suppression and confusion

Lucy Sullivan, Opinions Editor

Amidst the uncertainty and fear brought on by the pandemic, it would be reasonable to think that the current administration would do everything in their power to make voting easy and safe for all eligible voters, but unfortunately that is not the case. Many Americans consider this a monumental election, and there is reason to fear the legitimacy of the outcome, but not necessarily for the reasons about which the president has voiced concern.

On numerous occasions, President Trump has claimed that the coming election will be stolen from him in one way or another. At the first presidential debate he said, “As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster,” going on to explain how millions of mail-in ballots are being falsified or thrown away. He then went on to say that this will be, “a fraud like you’ve never seen before.” Unfortunately, instead of speaking the truth, the president’s extreme claims instill unnecessary fear and skepticism in our democracy.

 The president tweeted on June 22 about how foreign entities will create and send in fake ballots to rig the election in Biden’s favor: “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”According to former Utah and Colorado election official Jennifer Morrell, there is no evidence to back up this claim. Each county has unique ballots with specific sizes, weights, envelopes, and signatures. “You would need to replicate all of these elements exactly and do it for the 10,000-plus jurisdictions and hundreds of thousands of unique ballot styles within the U.S.,” she explained in an interview with NPR on June 22, 2020. Her assessment was further backed by FBI director Chris Wray when he said, “We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.” One reason for Trump’s false and unfounded claims is to distract his constituents from the voter suppression tactics used by his own administration.

Voter suppression is by no means a new problem in the United States. Since the founding of our country, political parties have used voter suppression and discrimination to their benefit. It has been through strategies like gerrymandering, selective placement of polls, and strict voting restrictions that parties in power have been able to manipulate elections throughout American history. The vicious cycles of voter suppression and discrimination date back to the historically poor treatment of people of color in our country, with African Americans not being able to vote until 1869, 13 years after all white men were able to vote, regardless of land ownership status. Some say that voter discrimination ended there, but this is simply not true. In the 1940s, Jim Crow laws included literacy tests that were unreasonably confusing, disqualifying many Black people from voting, because they lacked proper education. More subtle forms of voter discrimination go on today. In Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, voters must provide a strict form of photo ID at the polls, which many low income adults in this country do not have. In these states which mostly lean red, low-income voters—a majority of whom have historically voted Democrat—don’t have the chance to make their voices heard. 

Oftentimes, voter suppression and racial discrimination go hand-in-hand, as suppression tactics often disproportionately affect people of color. This year is no different, as the Trump administration attempts to suppress the votes of the Democratic party, which is more likely to appeal to people of color. People of color have historically voted blue, with 91% of Black voters and 66% of Hispanic voters backing Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election according to a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center

Many Americans are reluctant to vote in person this year, and for good reason. We are seven months into a pandemic that has already taken the lives of 220,000 Americans at time of publishing. In-person voting makes social distancing difficult, putting people at risk. With the coronavirus being politicized and the right wing minimizing its gravity, it is likely that more Biden voters will be mailing in than Trump voters. According to a study from the Pew research center from July and August of this year, 58% of Biden supporters would prefer to vote by mail, while that number is only 17% among Trump supporters. With that being said, Trump and his administration have been doing everything in their power to make voting by mail less accessible in certain areas, and discredit the validity of mail in voting. While the federal government doesn’t have full power over how individual states hold their elections, they do hold great influence over voters and their perception of the election process.  

In Texas, a state that usually votes red but has some large, left-leaning metropolitan areas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has worked to suppress the liberal and nonwhite votes in the hope of securing Texas as a red state. Earlier this month, the Texas governor signed an executive order limiting each county to one drop box for mail-in voters. Larger and more diverse counties, like Harris, with 4.7 million residents, would be disproportionately affected by the one-box rule. Harris county voted blue in 2016, and is projected to this year as well, but it is much harder for 4.7 million people to use a single dropbox than it is for the citizens in one of Texas’ many smaller, red counties like Randall with about 138,000 residents (2019), or Milam with about 25,000 residents (2018). This goes to show the lengths that the Republican party is willing to go to win, regardless of the safety of voters or the fairness of the  elections. 

On the other hand, California’s official Republican Party has been participating in a practice called “ballot harvesting” in predominantly conservative areas like Fresno and Orange County. This means that they have been putting out mail-in dropboxes in these areas, mass collecting ballots, and having one representative take them to the official dropbox that may be farther away. Although this in-and-of-itself is legal in the state of California, these boxes have been falsely marked as official, when they are not. With this corrupt behavior being displayed by the GOP, voters are misinformed about what is official and what isn’t, further contributing to the notion that mail-in voting is not to be trusted. In addition to that, there is more potential for real fraud with this practice, because, although the Republican Party ensured that these would be kept in a safe and guarded area, every middle man added into the equation of voting (especially one with a known bias) is one more opportunity for manipulation of the vote. If the GOP is willing to lie about the official status of the dropboxes, one wonders what else they would be willing to lie about on the ballot harvesting front.

The end goal of the suppression and confusion being brought on by Trump and certain members of the Republican party is to avoid a transfer of power come January. To put it simply, the Trump administration does not value the democratic process of voting, nor the compromises that Americans are making to preserve their safety and that of  those around them. When asked to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, this is what the president had to say: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful [pause] there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”