One month before Barack Obama won his first presidential election, Rensselaer County sent hundreds of absentee ballots listing him as “Barack Osama.” When it was brought to light, the Upstate New York Board of Elections issued a statement stating a “typographical error was made in the name of one of the candidates.”
There’s a long, sick history of political subterfuge rooted in racism where no one is punished because the excuse is simply written off as human error. This was clearly not an innocent mistake. A technical keyboard “typo” would constitute the “b” in Obama being replaced with a letter in proximity on the keyboard, NOT America’s biggest Muslim enemy.
Fast forward to 2020 and that typo pales in comparison to the nefarious measures being executed by the GOP. They’re not even trying to be stealth in their tactics of voter suppression. Just two weeks ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive to limit the number of ballot drop-off boxes to one per county. This means in Harris County (the greater Houston area), which previously had 12 drop-off boxes for every 2.4 registered voters, is now limited to only one. The action was challenged in a lawsuit and just last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the governor’s suppression – Black Robes Matter.
The next day, Harris County had record-setting turnout for its first day of early voting. While seeing strong voter engagement was heart-warming, the high number of long lines, especially in Black and brown communities, was heartbreaking. Many waited between six and 12 hours, an experience also occurring in the swing state of Georgia.
Also last week, in Virginia, voter registration suffered a setback when an unrelated utility repair led to an accidental fiber optic cable getting cut, causing a complete website outage on the last day of registration. Fortunately, the courts approved a 48-hour extension. When discovering the same site experienced a crash on the registration deadline for the 2018 midterms, the conspiracy hairs on my arm quickly raised but were tempered through conservation by reasons that leaned more toward the coincidence of ineptitude, especially since Virginia is a blue state.
All things can be true, but all things can’t be proven.
Let’s take Florida for example, under the leadership of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, there have been two server crashes prior to a major election. The most recent outage occurred earlier this month. It, too, resulted in an immediate lawsuit to extend the registration deadline. The judge wrote a scathing 29-page ruling but ultimately denied the 2-day extension while making DeSantis agree to extend for seven hours – the exact time the site was out of commission. Clearly, barely enough time to even notify the public – Black Robes Matter.
The server crash brought up another concern, the possibility of a foreign cyber-attack. Fortunately, an investigation found no evidence of interference. At least, that’s what they said. Nonetheless, all these breakdowns allow for windows of vulnerability. Moné Holder, the senior program director for New Florida Majority, a grassroots political group involved in the lawsuit, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “The online voter registration site failed because it was designed to fail.”
In my opinion, this statement applies to our overall voting system, which seems intentionally flawed, antiquated and sloppy. You would think the most powerful free world enforcer of democracy would have a superior voting process. Yet, there is such pervasive deficiency in our voting system one could make a legal argument of gross negligence.
How could citizens not be suspicious of unsavory alliances when a Republican-led Senate blocks a bipartisan bill that would enhance election security? Given the evidence of Russian interference versus Mexican immigration, is a border wall more important than a firewall? This is why it’s important to pay just as close attention to all the things they DON’T do. Hence, it can be true that Mitch McConnell and Ron DeSantis intentionally leave the back door unlocked to allow easy entry for a cyber-home invasion – but can anyone prove it?
We’ve come to the point where even the U.S. Postal Service is a battleground for election security. While a court of law has proven the rogue actions of one West Virginia mail carrier committed a crime by altering ballot requests, that same court can’t prove the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has ill-intent of election manipulation. It is not illegal for DeJoy to donate millions to the current president’s campaign. It is not illegal for the president to appoint him to the government position in return. It is not illegal for one of DeJoy’s first orders of business to be removing mailboxes and sorting machines in an election year, during a pandemic. Basically, it doesn’t matter if DeJoy’s sole objective is to help sabotage the election by making the USPS so dysfunctional that it offsets the accurate ballot count – it’s only illegal if you can prove it.
Scandal fatigue has made the word “conspiracy” an irrelevant accusation. Mainly because crony lawlessness is being cloaked as executive privilege making it virtually impossible to prove collusion. DeJoy knows why he was given the job, there’s nothing to discuss with the president. Furthermore, the swamp is now open to the public. Even those on the low end of the totem pole are willing to risk their freedom to suppress the votes of others. The wealth gap between the West Virginia mailman and the Postmaster General couldn’t be wider. Yet, they are united by the same objective. They both weaponized their government jobs — one just gets to defend his criminal behavior as if it were a typo.
Trevor is a creative mercenary and ethical lobbyist born and raised on Beale Street. Follow him on Twitter @trevbetter.