Fights, fears, and lawsuits over voting by mail this November

For weeks, President Trump has been criticizing vote-by-mail in the leadup to this fall’s presidential election. In the White House briefing room on Monday, Trump said, “When you have this mail-in voting, it’s very susceptible. It’s something that could be easily attacked by foreign countries, and by frankly Democrats and by Republicans.”

Now Republican operatives, the Trump campaign, and the administration are looking at ways to curtail voting by mail.

Trump doesn’t go into many details when he talks about fraud, says Anita Kumar, White House reporter and associate editor for Politico.

However, she says election experts have told her that they worry about the post office not being able to handle all the mail-in ballots, and election officials not being able to print everything on time.

The U.S. does have a new postmaster general, Republican Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by a board of governors. “He’s pledged that he will do everything in his power and the postal service’s power to get these ballots out,” says Kumar. “What has happened …in these last few weeks and even months during coronavirus, he has started to have some changes … some cutbacks during the pandemic. And there have been a lot of people complaining that their mail hasn’t come on time. So the postmaster general has just gone through and announced a reorganization. … He’s saying it’s supposed to make it better. It’s a little bit unclear what’s going to happen.”

Voting by mail means it’ll take a long time — weeks — to get results in closely fought races. Are people afraid that will likely happen with the November election, at least in battleground states?

“They’re definitely saying that. You’ve seen the president say that a lot lately. I was actually talking to a conservative group who’s filing their own lawsuits to make sure the voting rolls are okay. … They said the democrats are getting ready for this long, drawn-out process after the election, and that Republicans haven’t even started thinking about that and what that strategy might be like,” says Kumar.

Many people are also wondering what the White House could possibly do to stop mail-in voting. “We know that a couple of weeks ago when the president first started talking about the possibility of delaying the election, which he doesn’t have the power to do, that his aides both inside the administration and outside have been trying to just look at what possible executive action he could take.”

Aides are looking at actions such as telling the postal service to not deliver certain ballots, and stopping officials from counting ballots at a certain point after election day, says Kumar.

“Election experts say there’s nothing that the president can do. The authority rests with the states and Congress, and not with the president. So they’re very skeptical he could come up with anything. But this president likes to try to put things out there. And then he pretty much assumes he’s going to be taken to court, and sort of let the judges decide. So we don’t really know,” she says.

— Written by Amy Ta, produced by Brian Hardzinski



  • Anita Kumar - White House reporter and associate editor for Politico