Trump targets voting rights in quest for second term

By Jairo Mejia

New York, Jul 31 (efe-epa).- With his unfounded claims that widespread voting by mail will pave the way for fraud and his attempts to manipulate the 2020 United States Census, President Donald Trump appears to be trying to drive down participation in the Nov. 3 election as part of a longer-term strategy of restricting access to the ballot box to ensure Republican dominance.

A day after Trump floated the possibility of postponing the election until the threat of Covid-19 subsides sufficiently to allow in-person voting, the administration continued to denounce the prospect of massive postal voting.

“Always, a mail-in ballot system, mass mail-out ballots are going to be more at risk of fraud,” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Friday.

And presidential adviser Stephen Miller went on FOX News Friday to denounce “the catastrophic notion of universal mail-in ballots,” though 14 US states and many European countries have long used the practice without problems.

“Here’s a shocking thing for your audience to consider,” Miller said on the Fox and Friends program. “Nobody who mails in a ballot has their identity confirmed. Nobody checks to see if they’re even a US citizen.”

In fact, voters are required to provide proof of identity and some states require the signatures of witnesses on mail-in ballots.

A survey published Friday by researchers from several major universities, including Harvard and Rutgers, found that 22 percent of Americans oppose voting-by-mail, yet 63 percent of those eligible to vote plan to rely on postal ballots this year, compared with 21 percent in 2016.

While there is no evidence to date of significant fraud in connection with postal voting, neither the US Postal Service nor state and local election officials have experience in handling the volume of mail-in ballots expected in November.

Earlier this month, several Democrats who competed in June’s primaries in New York State sued the electoral authorities for rejecting valid mail-in ballots that – through no fault of the voter – lacked a postmark.

Suraj Patel, who unsuccessfully challenged Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, said that thousands of ballots went uncounted.

“We know that nearly 25 percent of people who actually went through the trouble of requesting a ballot, getting it, voting and dropping it in the mail will not have their ballots counted,” Patel told CBS2 television in New York.

Trump’s Democratic predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, said Thursday that the Republican incumbent is attacking the voting rights of minorities “with surgical precision.”

“Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws,” the country’s first African American president said in his eulogy for Congressman John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement.

Without mentioning Trump by name, Obama said that the administration is “even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”

On another front, the White House continues to tinker with the 2020 Census. After courts blocked the administration’s bid to include a question about citizenship, Trump has sought to exclude non-citizens from the counts that determine how many seats each state has in the House of Representatives.

Such a move would almost certainly result in reducing the number of seats for California and other Democratic-voting states with large immigrant populations.

On Friday, National Public Radio reported that the Census Bureau was planning to end door-to-door canvassing a month earlier than originally scheduled.

“I’m very fearful we’re going to have a massive undercount,” one Census Bureau manager said to NPR, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Forty percent of households have yet to return the Census forms sent by mail and in-person interviews are seen as vital in ensuring the accurate enumeration of the population that the US Constitution requires.

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