Opinion | Trump’s voter suppression effort has devolved into farce

Someone may try to produce a “Veep” or “Dr. Strangelove” satirizing the Trump era, but it won’t manage to be as absurd and horrifying as the reality.

This is illustrated by a pair of lawsuits Republicans have filed in an effort to make voting as difficult as possible in Nevada and Pennsylvania. You may have heard about the former, but the latter is even crazier and has gotten far less attention.

At the end of June, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee sued election officials in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, charging that the use of drop boxes where voters can deliver mail ballots violates the 14th Amendment. This terrifying threat to election integrity, they insisted, must be stopped.

You might have been flummoxed by this newfangled and untested technology. What is this “mailbox” device on my street corner? you asked yourself in dismay. How am I expected to operate it properly? What if some circus strongman tears it from its moorings and shakes it until my letter is ejected? How can I know the box itself isn’t actually a Terminator T-1000 sent here from the future by Skynet to acquire my mail?

Election officials in many states that have used drop boxes for years seem suspiciously unperturbed. Indeed, even in Republican-run states such as Georgia and South Carolina, officials are adding and promoting drop boxes as a secure way to make sure your ballot is counted (the U.S. Election Assistance Commission lays out best practices here). At a time when people have quite reasonable concerns that the Postal Service will not deliver mail ballots on time, dropping your ballot in an official receptacle would seem to be a helpful option.

It’s all the more important when Trump’s full-scale assault on the U.S. Postal Service is having such profound effects. Louis DeJoy, the GOP megadonor-turned-postmaster general, has taken numerous steps to make mail delivery slower and more difficult, at the very moment when tens of millions of Americans are about to rely on vote-by-mail.

Thanks to Trump’s crusade to convince his base that mail ballots are fraudulent, Republicans are now far more likely to be skeptical of vote-by-mail, which means Democrats will be more likely vote that way, which means anything Republicans do to subvert mail balloting could work to Trump’s advantage.

Like, for instance, slowing down the mail and then stopping people from dropping off ballots in drop boxes. Don’t be surprised if in the next few days you start seeing tweets from the president claiming that drop boxes are a far-left Soros antifa Chinese plot to steal the election.

The Trump campaign filed yet another lawsuit in Nevada this week over the state’s decision to send mail ballots to all active registered voters for the fall election, as a number of other states have done. Trump called the development, which involved the unfamiliar process of a bill passing both houses of the state legislature and then being signed by the governor, “an illegal late night coup.”

This comes even as Trump is also proclaiming that in Florida, vote-by-mail is glorious and perfect. Having persuaded so many supporters it’s a nightmare of fraud and abuse, he’ll struggle to carefully target certain Republicans and get them to suddenly have faith in it.

Which highlights a problem for Trump. Traditional Republican voter suppression measures have operated according to a couple of straightforward principles. First, make voting more cumbersome and complicated for everyone, on the theory that Republicans will be more likely to overcome the hurdles. Then target minority populations directly with measures like reducing the number of polling places in their neighborhoods.

But while Trump has been more committed to voter suppression than anyone, his efforts to carry it out have been haphazard, ill-conceived, and in some cases as likely to hurt his own chances as those of his opponents. Critically, they have been so blatant and transparent that voter suppression has itself become more of an issue than ever before. The fact that Trump is trying so hard to keep people from voting will only boost the determination of Americans who despise him to get out and vote.

Now if they can just get their ballots signed, sealed and delivered, and if his preposterous lawsuits fail to shut down the voting, it might be one more way Trump brings about his own defeat.


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