Americans Scorned

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Trump administration orders shortening census taking by a month and slowing the activities of the United States Postal Service that may impact mail-in balloting have a common denominator: both scorn the American people.

In both cases, Donald Trump, a rogue president, doesn’t want voters counted, either their ballots or their persons, especially if they’re Blacks, Latinos or undocumented immigrants. Democrats and civil rights leaders are fighting both changes, which have been implemented.

He’s stiffing us, just as he did the World Health Organization when he refused to pay dues owed in the middle of a pandemic? Who does that?

The typical outrageous Trumpian objective against both of these stalwart institutions is to try to enhance Republican electoral victories by short-circuiting mail-in votes for Democrats and, through the census, undercounting the number of people by cutting a month off census-taking. That, in turn, would affect the amount of federal dollars apportioned to each state.

The census also affects the drawing of statewide legislative districts. Undercounting in heavily Democratic urban areas, where most minorities live, could mean a power shift to rural spaces, home to more Republicans. If a political party has difficulty winning at the polls, there are other ways to secure victory.

An opinion piece in Friday’s Atlantic said Trump plans a three-pronged attack on the election: “Slowing mail delivery, then urging Republican state legislators to deem Election Day ‘failed’ because of the many uncounted votes, and finally denouncing as illegitimate all vote-counting that continues after Election Day – even as slowly delivered mail-in ballots keep arriving.”

Remedy: “State legislatures should act now to show just how futile this strategy would be for Trump,” wrote Lawrence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law emeritus, Harvard Law School; Joshua A. Geltzer, executive director, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection; and Jennifer Taub, law professor, Western New England University School of Law.

But monkeying with the census, which is taken every 10 years, may be unconstitutional because it was mandated under Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. The first census was taken in August, 1790, 16 months after George Washington’s inauguration.

The order stipulates the census taking should stop Sept. 30, a month earlier than planned. It originally was to end July 31, but was extended to Oct. 31 because of complications caused by the pandemic. About 63 percent of an estimated 121 million households have responded to the census, Huffpost said.

Eric Holder, the attorney general during the Obama administration who now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, told Politico last week the directed change to the census taking violates the Constitution.

“This latest scheme is nothing more than a partisan attempt at manipulating the census to benefit the president’s allies, but it plainly violates the U.S. Constitution and federal laws and cannot stand,” he said.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, wrote:

“The Trump administration is doing everything it can to sabotage the 2020 census so that it reflects an inaccurate and less diverse portrait of America. Its latest effort involves quietly compressing the census timeline to all but guarantee a massive undercount.”

Trump, judged a racist, tried in 2019 to add a citizenship question to the census form but the Supreme Court blocked the move. The bid was an attempt to find and deport illegal immigrants, of course.

Another Trump game, but played in the same insidious league that aims to undermine the election, is the ordered reorganization of the Postal Service and the slowdown in mail deliveries as a result of eliminating overtime for carriers. Overtime is required to ensure that all mail on any given day winds up at its address. There’s already a backlog.

In addition, instead of fighting in Congress to give the USPS enough money to do its job properly, the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally, proved his worth to the president after only eight weeks in the position by overhauling the service, reassigning or displacing 23 executives. The move gives DeJoy more power.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, (D-Va), who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the USPS, termed the reorganization “a deliberate sabotage” of the mail system and a “Trojan Horse,” the Post said.

That traitorous horse, a Pony Express of a darker objective, would be certain to stampede in the direction of obstructing postal delivery to eventually affect the mailing of election ballots, slowing their arrival at the counting tables.

DeJoy has said the reorganization of the money losing USPS is intended to make it more efficient. The service said it lost $2.2 billion from April through June.

Trump has been bashing mail-in voting for months, totally ignoring the potential spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 if people line up to vote. States are planning to use the mail as an alternative to people handing in their ballots at polling booths. Another complication is those booths likely will be short-staffed because the elderly poll workers who usually man those places likely will stay away for fear of contracting the disease.

The deadly virus has killed more than 158,000 Americans and infected more than 5 million.

“The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it,” Trump tweeted July 26. He has made more than 70 attacks against mail balloting since March, the Post said.

“There is no evidence that voting by mail results in significant fraud,” the Brennan Center for Justice has said. “As with in-person voting the threat is infinitesimally small.”

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.