Clarence Fanto: Regardless of whether mail-in voting has your stamp of approval, be prepared

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LENOX — President Donald Trump can threaten all he wants about delaying Election Day, although, presumably, he has learned that only Congress could take such a drastic step. Even die-hard Republican sycophants like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have deemed the president's absurd notion as dead on arrival.

As former President Barack Obama pointed out Thursday, during his eloquent eulogy for civil rights hero John Lewis, "there are those in power doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting — by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don't get sick."

That's the point, exactly. Trump and his minions are doing all they can to sabotage election season, with weeks of early voting in many states, by alleging, without a shred of evidence, that mailed ballots are fraudulent.

The demagogue-in-chief proclaimed that mail-in votes would lead to "a rigged election."

"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

"Mail ballots, they cheat," the president said at the White House. "Mail ballots are very dangerous for this country because of cheaters. They go collect them. They are fraudulent in many cases."

He also falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to "anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there." In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots.

But, voter fraud in general, including by mail, is extremely rare. Five states — Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah and Hawaii — already vote almost entirely by mail, and 39 states plus the District of Columbia allow any resident to vote by mail or absentee without an excuse.

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Texas, while not expanding access to mail ballots, has extended its in-person early voting period, which will start Oct. 13, to avoid Election Day crowds.

A panel set up by Trump to investigate election corruption found no evidence of fraud before he disbanded it in 2018.

Since the widespread fraud claim is "a dog that won't hunt," Trump has switched to another tactic to undermine the election.

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As reported by The Washington Post, NPR and other credible news sources, the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing dayslong backlogs of mail across the country.

The reason: A top Trump donor now running the agency is slashing costs, leading postal workers to warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time to be counted when the polls close Nov. 3. Trump fundraiser-turned-Postmaster General Louis DeJoy appears to be encouraging mail delays as part of a political effort to undermine record numbers of mail ballots to be cast.

Trump insists that the Postal Service cannot be trusted to deliver ballots, stating at the White House on Thursday that he did not want to wait "three months" for election results, again suggesting that widespread mail-in voting would rig the election.

DeJoy, a North Carolina logistics executive who donated more than $2 million to Republican political committees in the past four years, is prohibiting Postal Service overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind, when necessary, to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes.

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The new policies have resulted in at least a two-day delay in scattered parts of the country, even for express mail, according to multiple postal workers and union leaders. Letter carriers are manually sorting more mail, adding to the delivery time. Bins of mail ready for delivery are sitting in post offices because of scheduling and route changes. And without the ability to work overtime, workers say, the logjam is worsening without an end in sight.

Postal workers across the country assert that the changes could lead to chaos in November.

Residents and postal workers have reported scattered problems, including in swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, raising concerns over whether states are being targeted because of their importance in the presidential and Senate elections.

I'm torn between voting by mail or in person at Town Hall at 7 a.m. Oct. 17, when early voting begins in Massachusetts and continues until Oct. 30.

Registered voters statewide have received an application for mail-in voting, not only for the general election, but also for the Sept. 1 primary. Keeping my options open, I sent in the application and now eagerly await the actual ballots.

Given the reported Postal Service logjams, anyone voting by mail should do so well ahead of the Sept. 1 and Nov. 3 primary and election days. Otherwise, unless there are landslide outcomes, we should all be prepared for prolonged suspense, perhaps for days or even a week, before winners are declared.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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