Mail-in voting is no threat to a free and fair election, but Trump is

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(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Let’s say Donald Trump gets thumped in November. Pummeled. Trounced. Let’s say voters in Nevada and the nation reject him roundly, soundly, and adamantly, with commitment and purpose, crushing Trump even in the electoral college.

What is there about his behavior, or him, that suggests he’ll accept the results?

Trump insisted, wrongly, that the 2016 election was riddled with fraud. He was eager to persuade his adoring fans that his electoral college appointment to the presidency was not tainted because Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than he did. Desperately yearning for everyone to believe he had won a victory every bit as magnificent as Trump Steaks, Trump University, or the size of his inaugural crowd, President Little Snowflake appointed a presidential commission to prove it.

Alas, finding zero proof to substantiate its existence, the commission collapsed under the weight of its own pointlessness. So that was funny.

Now Trump and his obedient echo chamber of GOP politicians and apparatchiks in Nevada and the nation are setting the stage to discredit the 2020 election results in case Trump loses not only the popular vote again, but this time even the country’s archaic and indefensible electoral college too.

If he loses, Trump is going to declare the election a fraud and a hoax. He’ll dismiss election results, compiled by state and local officials of both parties in Nevada and elsewhere, as fake news. And he’s been laying down a trail of despicable but base-fortifying lies ahead of time.

That’s what Trump’s bat guano tweet threatening Nevada this week was about. 

Trump, easily the most corrupt U.S. president in history, couldn’t care less if Nevada or any state conducts a free and fair election, as long as he wins it.

But he might not. So the safe thing to do is convince his base beforehand that he, the supercalifragilistic Trump, after all, couldn’t possibly lose an election unless a nefarious conspiracy had rigged the results. Trump’s twitter violence against Nevada and Michigan this week were more in a long-running series of preemptive attacks maliciously designed to destroy viability of elections and democracy.

The fact that mail-in voter fraud, like voter fraud generally, is exceptionally rare (See voting fraud, Trump’s disastrous failed commision on) doesn’t matter to Trump because of course it doesn’t.

Five states already have all mail-in elections — Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and Hawaii. None of them report any notable let alone significant or disturbing problems with fraudulent voting. 

Utah probably isn’t Trump’s favorite red state, because its junior senator, who also happened to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, voted to impeach Trump for threatening Ukraine, almost as if Ukraine was Nevada or Michigan or something. But Utah is still a rock-solid Republican state.

Unlike Nevada, the position of lieutenant governor in Utah is a full-time job with identifiable responsibilities, one of which is overseeing elections (Utah doesn’t have a secretary of state). The lieutenant governor is a Republican because, again, this is Utah we’re talking about. And that person’s chief of staff told NBC News “there is very little evidence of voter fraud within our mail-in system here in Utah.” Again, that echoes what officials say in the other four states with all mail-in elections.

The most celebrated case of fraudulent shenanigans even remotely connected to voting-by-mail happened in North Carolina in 2018, when a political operative collected absentee ballots, ostensibly to deliver them to a voting booth or a mailbox, and then tampered with the ballots. Republicans love to point to the case as an argument for their latest voter suppression strategy, the party’s attack on so-called “ballot harvesting.”

A couple points about the North Carolina case: First, it was perpetrated by a Republican, so maybe when Republicans scream “ballot harvesting,” as they do, in addition to attempting to suppress votes from vulnerable citizens, they’re also projecting. Second, tampering is illegal everywhere, dude got caught, and there was a do-over on the election, which is yet more evidence that election safeguards work, in turn helping to explain why voter fraud is super duper rare. More rare, even, than Donald Trump telling the truth.

The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy organization that studies elections and the voting process, and says its mission was inspired by the life and work of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan.

Brennan was appointed to the court by President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a Republican, but today’s Republicans think Ike was an icky RINO because he thought corporations should pay higher taxes than working people, spent a lot of federal money to build public things (not least the interstate highway system), and showed other signs of of mid-mod consensus. Today’s Trump Republicans have no more use for the Brennan Center than they do for poor old Ike.

Which is too bad, because today’s Republicans who believe, or at least accept, Trump’s free-form stream of casual everyday lies and deliberately false assertions should know the Brennan Center is a pretty cool resource for studies of elections and their history, compiling and explaining a lot of interesting and trenchant information, including the following: “Mail balloting is not a newfangled idea; it was already deeply embedded in the American electoral system before the coronavirus hit. In the last two federal elections, roughly one out of every four Americans cast a mail ballot.”

Or as Trump put it as he was threatening you, the people of Nevada, on Twitter, “great Voter Fraud scenario.”

Sigh.

If and when the American electorate, or more specifically the anti-democracy farce that is the electoral college, is won by someone who isn’t Trump, he will rant and rave and lie and spout enraged gibberish. In that respect, it will be just another day in the Trump presidency.

He’ll also swear the election was a fraud, the greatest (he loves superlatives) crime in history, perpetrated on real Americans by the evil “Democrat” party. And his dutiful flock of worshipers will lap up the Kool-Aid.

What he won’t do is prepare to leave the White House on January 20, 2021. On the contrary, he will prepare to stay. No Republican members of Congress (well, maybe Romney) will say “No Mr. Trump that is not how this works you lost you are a loser sorry no more presidenting for you.”

While we know what Republicans will, er, won’t do, the more pressing questions concern what Democratic elected officials plan to do, what the courts will do, and — atrocious and painful and terrifying as it is to even mention — what authorities charged with enforcing the law will do.

At least there’s no question what Nevada voters should do: The more stunning Trump’s defeat in state after state after state, the harder it will be for him to sustain his ongoing attack on democracy, the Constitution, the nation, and its people.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.