GOP support for mail voting is growing, but hard to hear over Trump
President Trump's increasingly hyperbolic attacks on voting by mail, amplified by Attorney General William Barr and the Republican National Committee, have triggered alarms that the country is heading toward another contested election.
Trump appears to be gearing up to cast doubt on an outcome that doesn't go his way. Primaries marred by hours-long lines, voting machine malfunctions and controversies over absentee ballots have many bracing for a meltdown starting Election Day. A much bigger surge of mailed-in votes in November virtually guarantees the results won't be known for days, setting the stage for a crisis in voter confidence if the results are close enough to be challenged, as happened in 2000.
Yet for all that, voting rights advocates mobilizing to secure the election and neutralize Trump's divisive voting rhetoric have surprising and influential allies in their corner: many leading Republicans.
More than 18,000 ballots were mailed in but not tabulated in Florida's presidential primary, researchers have found. And the envelopes returned by young, first-time and Black voters were the most likely not to get counted.
The number of uncounted absentee ballots is one component of an analysis of the March 17 primary published last week by the Healthy Elections Project, created by experts at Stanford and MIT.
While the number of uncounted mail ballots is a tiny fraction — 1.3 percent — of the total number of mail-in ballots in the primary, it nonetheless represents a significant number of voters in a state renowned for its razor-thin election results.
Another big moment for efforts to expand the voting rights of former prisoners will come in November, when Californians decide whether almost 50,000 parolees should be given access to the ballot box.
Sponsors of the referendum, which last week won final legislative approval for a spot on the ballot, say they're confident the vote will go their way. That would add the nation's most populous state to the roster of 16 that permit felons to vote as soon as they get out of prison.
Restoring the franchise to ex-convicts has become a top cause of civil rights groups, who say democracy is enhanced when political power is given back to people who have paid their debt to society. The campaign has gained additional momentum this summer from the nationwide protests against police violence and systemic racism.
President Trump is taking his crusade against voting by mail to a new level: His campaign has gone to court for the first time to combat liberalized absentee ballot rules — in Pennsylvania, a state central to his prospects for re-election.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Pittsburgh, seeks to make the sixth most populous state abandon for November several of the ways it collected and counted mail-in ballots in the primary, alleging the procedures were both unconstitutional and against state law.
Although the Republican Party sued last month in an unsuccessful effort to limit the delivery of mail ballots to everyone in California, and is vowing to spend $20 million or more defending restrictive voting laws that Democrats are challenging in 18 states, Pennsylvania is the first place where the president's campaign has gone on litigious offense.
"When voices are silenced, our democracy perishes," argues Pattie Arduini of the American Ethical Union.
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