I never thought I'd see the day that a sitting President of the United States would actively spread disinformation that aims to undermine American democracy and disenfranchise voters. Yet on July 30, Donald Trump did just that, making the utterly baseless claim that allowing Americans to vote by mail would lead to an "inaccurate and fraudulent" election in November.
Trump has made it clear he's afraid of American voters and hellbent on undermining our democracy.
That is simply not true, and Trump didn't even bother to mention why there is such an urgent push for more Americans to be able to vote by mail and by absentee ballot on Nov. 3: COVID-19. Yes, instead of trying to help more Americans safely and securely exercise their right to vote in the midst of a pandemic, Trump once again chose to use Twitter to spread false information meant to confuse people and suppress votes. His tweet was even more shocking and crass in that it came on the same day civil rights leader and conscience of the Congress Rep. John Lewis was being laid to rest in Atlanta.
But Trump didn't stop there — he then suggested in the same tweet that we should delay the November election because he thinks voting by mail is bad.
This is an absurd and dangerous attack on our electoral system. I don't think I've ever been more dumbfounded or alarmed by a presidential statement in my lifetime. Never in our nation's history — not even during the Civil War — have we delayed a presidential election. And we're not about to let it happen over a disinformation campaign about vote-by-mail.
I'd like to correct the record since the president brought it up. Ready for some facts?
Fact 1: Trump does not have the power to delay or cancel the Nov. 3 election. Only an act of Congress can change the date of Election Day, the timing of which is set by the US Constitution — not by presidential tweet.
Fact 2: Vote-by-mail has long proven to be one of the safest and most secure ways to vote. Mail-in ballots include strong security measures like barcodes that ensure their authenticity and are trackable from the day they are printed to the day they are counted.
For the record, if Trump really cares about the safety of people and the security of their vote, then he should promote vote-by-mail, if for no other reason than to keep the American people safe as the coronavirus rages on and the death toll climbs. And he should support the HEROES Act that gives states $3.6 billion to bolster election infrastructure and allow every American to participate in our democracy.
Instead, Trump is trying to confuse Americans and draw a dishonest distinction between voting by absentee ballot and voting by mail. Want in on a little secret? They're the same damn thing.
Fact 3: There is no difference between voting by mail and voting by absentee ballot. And one is certainly not more or less secure than the other. In fact, the verification process is the same for both mail-in ballots and absentee ballots, and most states consider them to be the same thing. (By the way, you can sign up to vote by mail or request an absentee ballot on VoteAmerica's website.)
There is no precedent for the level of disinformation and disenfranchisement efforts coming from the White House. From his attacks on vote-by-mail to an attempt by the president to undermine the US Postal Service in an election year when voting by mail will literally save lives, Trump has made it clear he's afraid of American voters and hellbent on undermining our democracy. A line is being crossed, and we need to fight back. We're at a point now where the very foundation of our democracy — the power to vote — is being threatened by one of the most powerful men in the world.
VoteAmerica will not sit by and just let this happen. We are going to reinforce our democracy against this attack by turning out tens of millions of voters ahead of November's election. And we need you with us. Democracy only fails when we let it. By staying engaged, and by helping others play their part in our elections, we can protect it from those who wish to tear it down for their own personal gain. We hope you will join us.
Debra Cleaver is the founder and CEO of VoteAmerica, a national nonprofit leveraging research-driven campaigns to register and turn out the 100+ million Americans who are traditionally excluded by partisan outreach efforts.