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Trump and the tactics of mass disenfranchisement

From Clark County, Nevada to the U.S. Supreme Court, Donald Trump and tens of thousands of his operatives are working on a multi-pronged strategy to deliver the incumbent a second term despite the expected loss of the popular vote.

The strategy rests on the disenfranchisement of millions of voters by fraudulent and violent means, combined with a federal court system dominated by appointees who owe their lifetime positions to Trump.

Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, is majority Democrat. Nevada is considered a “swing state,” with six electoral votes. Republican lawyers have filed a lawsuit demanding the turnover of a copy of the signature of every registered voter in the county, along with the names, political affiliation and work schedules of all election workers.

The targeting of individual ballots on a one-by-one basis represents a new escalation of mass disenfranchisement that Trump sees as essential to his hope for re-election.

The intention is to disqualify voters if the signature on their ballot is not an exact match of their signature on file. Many of the original files are decades old and signatures often change over time, making it easier to contest. The aim of this tactic would be to throw out the votes of thousands while at the same time slowing the whole process to a crawl, as happened in Florida in 2000.

Using thug tactics, agents of George W. Bush deliberately slowed the post-election counting process until the Supreme Court stepped in mid-December of that year. Among the team on the scene were two lawyers who are now 20 years later the newest members of the Supreme Court court: Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

It is entirely possible that in the absence of an overwhelming Biden victory, the outcome could end up being determined by exactly five people, a majority of the Supreme Court. This is no conspiracy theory; in 2000 the same a body “elected” George W. Bush over Al Gore by a 5-4 vote despite Bush’s loss of the popular vote. Gore meekly folded his tent and went home.

Trump’s tactics designed to disenfranchise millions

In mid-October, a federal appeals court in Wisconsin overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed mail ballots postmarked prior to Election Day to be counted. A similar ruling was handed down by another federal court in Michigan. State officials report that 80,000 such ballots were cast in Wisconsin in 2016. For nearly all other legal documents, such as tax filings, a pre-deadline postmark is deemed acceptable.

Among other swing states that refuse to count pre-election day postmarked ballots are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio.

In the midst of a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, many people, particularly those most vulnerable due to disability, age and/or pre-existing condition, fear going into polling places. If they cannot hope to have a mail ballot counted, they can in many states place them in drop boxes.

In an especially vicious act, Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott ordered on October 1 that there should be just one drop box in each county of the vast state. The population of Harris County (Houston) alone is 4.7 million. After a lower court blocked this cruel policy, a federal appeals court panel composed of three Trump appointees overturned the lower court ruling.

In Florida, a key state, ballots of Black, Latino and young voters have been disproportionately flagged for disqualification.

Disenfranchisement by armed intimidation

On October 22, a court in Michigan struck down a state ban on carrying firearms within 100 feet of a polling place. It is still illegal to display any election literature in the same area.

This ruling gives a green light to Michigan’s large far right militia movement to intimidate voters across the state on Election Day and in the days leading up to it.

Fascist and other extreme racist and right-wing movements have been engaging in car caravans, many times with heavy weaponry in Black and Latino communities across the country, with the clear intent of intimidation.

Despite all of the acts and countless others aimed at disenfranchising millions, record numbers of people especially in oppressed and working class communities have already voted.

Regardless of the actual vote count, it is clear that the people’s struggle for justice must and will intensify.

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