The Count #1
Launched alongside our new daily show The Count, we’re focusing on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race will be too close to call on election night, that President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results—and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.
Our new show and newsletter will help you prepare, track Republicans’ efforts to steal the election, and share what each of us can and must do to protect the will of the people. Watch our first episode here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.
THE DAILY COUNTDOWN
- 25 days until election day.
- 60 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
- 66 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
- 89 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
- 103 days until inauguration day.
REPUBLICANS HAVE A HISTORY OF CHEATING
Republicans are masters of voter suppression, having spent decades restricting the vote and voting power of those who tend to vote Democratic. A small sampling of their nefarious efforts:
- Since 2013, states across the South have closed more than 1,200 polling sites; more than half of those lost were in Texas and seven counties in Georgia have been left with only a single polling location.
- Between 2011 and 2016, Ohio purged more than 2 million voters from its rolls, with Black voters twice as likely to be removed compared to white voters, while in one night in 2017 Georgia purged 500,000 voters.
- In 2016, gerrymandering led to Republicans winning 22 more seats in the U.S. House; across the country, four times as many states had Republican-skewed state Assembly and House districts than those that favored Democrats.
VOTER INTIMIDATION IS A PROMINENT PART OF THEIR STRATEGY
After egregious violations, the courts took steps to limit Republican voter intimidation. But this election cycle, the floodgates are back open.
In 1981, the Republican National Committee helped orchestrate one of the most overt voter intimidation efforts America has ever seen. Together with New Jersey Republicans, the RNC hired off-duty sheriffs and police officers, who wore revolvers and “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands, to patrol Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, successfully turning away voters from the polls.
The Democratic National Committee sued the RNC, and a federal court issued a consent decree to curb the RNC’s voter intimidation tactics. In the years since, Republicans violated the decree numerous times, and so it was continually extended. But, in 2018, a federal judge allowed the consent decree to expire. So, during this election season, the RNC is free to engage in so-called “ballot security” efforts without judicial oversight.
As a result:
- The Trump campaign is recruiting what Republicans are calling an “army” of 50,000 poll watchers, who Trump has implored “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.”
- His allies are getting into the action too, with militant groups recruiting thousands of police, soldiers, and veterans.
This is only one part of the strategy. The Republicans’ systematic efforts are playing out right now around the country:
- In Texas, the state’s most populous county isn’t allowed to send applications for mail-in ballots to voters, and there will be only one ballot drop-off location for an area that’s home to 4.7 million people.
- In Pennsylvania, ballots returned without a second “secrecy” envelope will be rejected, which could affect 100,000 voters.
- In North Carolina, the rejection rate for Black voters’ mail-in ballots by late September was nearly three times greater than the rejection of white voters’ mail-in ballots.
- In Iowa, a Republican lawsuit has led to more than 100,000 ballot requests from this year being invalidated.
- In Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana, and South Carolina, voters will not be allowed to use a deadly pandemic as a reason to vote by mail.
WE KNOW THE TRUMP PLAYBOOK FOR STEALING THE ELECTION
During the 2020 election, Republicans will not only be leaning on their traditional tricks—voter intimidation, suppression, and poll closures—but executing on a well-planned strategy designed to harness the unique moment of voting in the middle of a pandemic.
Trump, his campaign, and the Republican Party have stepped up their efforts to disrupt the election by intimidating voters, purging voter rolls, and closing polling stations. But the greatest threat to a free and fair election is their plan to:
- Create chaos and sow doubt in the election by declaring victory on election night.
- As overwhelmingly Democratic mail-in ballots are counted in the days and weeks after the election, assert without evidence that Democrats are stealing the election, that the mail-in ballots are fraudulent, and that the election night results must be certified.
- Prevent Democratic votes, especially mail-in ballots, in swing states from being fully and accurately counted by disqualifying ballots with legal and administrative challenges, delaying the count past established deadlines, and even physically disrupting the ballot count.
- Convince Republican legislators to overturn the results of the election by appointing fraudulent slates of Trump electors in order to take the outcome of the election away from voters.
To summarize, this won’t be a coup fought with guns and tanks in the street, but, as The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza has said: “We’re talking about a slow motion coup disguised as really boring lawsuits and really boring arcane federal procedures … which is, if anything, more terrifying.”
THE TRUMP PLAN TO STEAL THE 2020 ELECTION IS NOT A SECRET
Trump and the Republicans are openly talking about their plans and intentions for 2020, and have been for months. Via The Atlantic, the idea that Republicans are considering this dramatic move comes straight from the party: “According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.”
But, seriously, they are not trying to hide it:
- “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”—Trump at the RNC on Aug 24.
- “We’re going to have to see what happens … Get rid of the ballots and there won’t be a transfer, frankly; there’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.”—Trump on Sep 23 when asked about a peaceful transition of power.
- “So we have to be very careful with the ballots. The ballots—that’s a whole big scam.”—Trump’s Sep 24 answer to whether election results are only legitimate if he wins.
- “I’m counting on them [the Supreme Court] to look at the ballots, definitely.”—Trump during the first debate on Sep 29.
And when asked on Wednesday night during the Vice Presidential debate what he would do if Trump refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power, Mike Pence evaded the question and repeated misinformation about voter fraud.
NO, YOU ARE THE CHEATER.
Not only are Trump and the Republicans not hiding their slow coup playbook, but they are using a go-to tactic of autocrats around the globe: accuse your opponent of the cheating that you are in fact doing.
Just last week, former chief strategist to President Trump, Steve Bannon, accused Democrats of trying to “steal” the election.
- “We have to stop this effort to steal the election. You know, the plot to steal 2020.”—Bannon on The John Fredericks Show on Sep 29.
“It’s kind of like when you’re dating a cheater and the cheater says that you’re cheating because that’s what they do.” –The Count co-host Alana Sivin
THE MOST IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY: WE SHOULD BELIEVE TRUMP WHEN HE SAYS HE’LL STEAL THE ELECTION
Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist and author who has spent much of their career covering President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, wrote a seminal piece in 2016 on the rules of surviving an autocracy.
One of these rules is crucial for ensuring that we don’t miss the flashing signs that Trump wants to steal the election: Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. Here’s what Gessen wrote two days after the 2016 election:
- “He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture.”—The New York Review of Books
HERE’S THE BACKGROUND:
- This might all sound highly improbable, but 2020 should show us that these kinds of “low-probability, high-impact events” can not only happen but needs to be planned for in order to avoid the worst potential outcomes.
- If this feels overwhelming, Perry Bacon Jr. at FiveThirtyEight agrees that it’s “totally appropriate for people to, well, freak out” about the Republican plan to undermine the electoral process.
- For more details, Barton Gellman took an astonishing look in The Atlantic at Trump’s election plans and the failures of the system to account for a president that won’t concede. “Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede,” he wrote.
- Widespread voter fraud is part of a purposeful disinformation campaign that has existed for decades, and according to an investigation by New York Times Magazine “it is remarkable, but not at all accidental, that a narrative built from minor incidents, gross exaggeration and outright fabrication is now at the center of the effort to re-elect the president.”
- From Florida to California, the RNC is executing an extremely well-funded campaign to challenge voter access. But what’s surprising about this spate of lawsuits is the decision to take on states like California, where they have almost no chance of winning, which shows “how aggressive and deep-pocketed the GOP legal strategy is.”
- Changes are also happening at the Justice Department. Abandoning a long-standing policy of not interfering in elections, the DOJ will now allow exceptions to do with suspected fraud by postal workers or the military. U.S. attorney’s offices can now take “public investigative steps” before polls close, despite the harm that could cause to election integrity.
- Even without plans to exploit loopholes, the Electoral College benefits Republicans. If a Republican presidential candidate narrowly loses the popular vote, they would still win the White House 65% of the time.