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The Count #7: Resisting Trump’s Play For Absolute Power

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if 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.

Today, we’ll look at:

  • New polling that finds millions of Americans are prepared to protest if Trump launches legal challenges to stop vote counts.
  • How researchers, organizers, and activists are pushing for voters to be prepared to protest and form civic engagement groups in their communities.
  • Record early voting in key battleground states.

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  • 15 days until election day.
  • 50 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 56 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 79 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 93 days until inauguration day.


Americans have continually shattered protest records during the Trump administration, whether it be the largest one-day demonstration with the 2017 Women’s March to an estimated 15 to 26 million people participating in the Black Lives Matter protests. And this could be set to continue.

But even those records could be shattered if President Donald Trump goes ahead with his plan to contest election results that are unfavorable to him in the courts.

New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows that tens of millions of voters are poised to protest Trump’s effort to steal the election.

  • 40% of likely voters, including 53% of Democrats, would likely attend a protest in the event of the Trump campaign taking legal action to stop votes from being counted.
  • 35% of Republicans also said they’d protest if Trump’s campaign tried to stop the vote count.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY — If Trump decides to subvert the will of the voters, America could see the largest protests in recorded history. Based on the turnout in 2016 of 138 million people, 40% of voters protesting would mean 56 million people taking to the streets—that’s more than double the biggest estimates of the number of people who took part in Black Lives Matter protests. With this election’s turnout already breaking records, the number of Americans who would protest could be even larger.
  • As The Count guest Jason Ganz said, “If these numbers were anywhere close to the number of people that actually went out onto the streets, and were actually protesting, this would be historic, it would be monumental, it would be something that Donald Trump would not be able to ignore.”


Aside from voting, protests are one of the most powerful and effective methods of seeking political change. A study of more than 100 nonviolent protests found nearly every single one succeeded when they actively and sustainably mobilized 3.5% of their population against the government.

This sort of activism is what Hardy Merriman, Ankur Asthana, Marium Navid, and Kifah Shah want Americans to prepare for after election day. The four researchers, organizers, and activists are the authors of a new report, “Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy.” The report helps people organize for nonviolent civil resistance, including protests, strikes, and boycotts, as well as forming election protection groups which they hope can play a crucial role to pressure state and federal elected officials, as well as county election officials, to count every vote.


A “record-shattering avalanche” is how the Associated Press described voter turnout after a number of states began early voting last week. Across the United States, more than 28 million people have already cast early or mail-in ballots.


  • Early voting levels last week were already 10 times higher than at this point in 2016 (even without eight states that have yet to report their numbers) and Democrats are casting ballots at twice the rate of Republicans.
  • 16 states have already cast more than 20% of all their 2016 votes.
  • Texas is leading the country in early voting. Texans have already cast 45% of all their 2016 votes and nearly 15% of the entire country’s 28 million early votes have been cast by Texans.
  • One estimate, from a professor and creator of the U.S. Elections Project, expects 2020 to have the highest voter turnout in more than a century.


  • Arizona — Since Oct. 7, when early voting began, voting has outpaced 2016. Maricopa County, the fourth most populous in the country, had a record-breaking turnout on its first day of early voting.
  • Florida — Early voting in-person largely begins today, but the number of ballots cast has already doubled over 2016. Florida Democrats have returned 430,000 more mail-in ballots than Republicans, comprising more than 50% of total votes cast, up from 2016 when Republicans’ early ballots led Democrats 43% to 40%.
  • Georgia — More than 1.2 million ballots were cast by Friday, which is more than double this point in 2016. Including mail-in ballots, more than 10% of the entire electorate had voted after two days.
  • Michigan — Since early voting began on Sept. 24, three-and-a-half times more voters have cast their ballots than at this point in 2016.
  • North Carolina — Setting a new voter turnout record, 333,000 early voters cast their ballots on the first day of early voting and the state topped 1 million total ballots by Friday.
  • Ohio — Turnout is triple what it was after the first week of early voting in 2016.
  • Pennsylvania — 75% of the 683,000 mail-in ballots received so far have been submitted by Democrats.

What this shows is that, “Americans are not being deterred,” according to The Count host, Emily Galvin-Almanza, “and they will stand in line as long as they have to to get their damn vote cast.”


  • Trump claimed his own FBI director “is not doing a very good job” at his town hall last week because the agency’s head has said there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
  • USPS will prioritize election mail across the United States, and reverse several changes implemented this year, after settling a lawsuit last week with Montana’s Democratic governor.
  • Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators said they don’t foresee being involved in challenges to their state’s election results. “We will have no role post-election in changing outcomes,” one leader said, though what happens if there isn’t a clear outcome is, well, less clear.
  • But Pennsylvania has rejected 372,000 ballot applications. More than 90% were rejected as duplicate requests from people who had unwittingly requested a general election mail in ballot in June. Overall, one-in-five mail-in applications has been rejected.
  • Alabama is heading to the Supreme Court to try to block a ruling that allowed curbside voting because it would “cause confusion and much harm.” The original lawsuit was to accommodate voters with disabilities or who are high-risk for COVID-19.
  • The battle over Texas’ ballot boxes continues after a judge ruled counties can have more than one mail-in drop off box per county. But an immediate appeal from the attorney general paused that ruling for now.
  • Those unofficial ballot boxes in California will remain for now, as the GOP who installed them said they plan to ignore a cease and desist letter from the state attorney general and secretary of state.
  • Navajo Nation members in Arizona won’t have extra time to cast mail-in ballots after an appeals court rejected their case. There’s only 11 days between the mail-in application deadline and the election, but the complaint said it could take 10 days for mail to reach the county offices from the reservation.

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