Editorial: Cuomo, Legislature should not aid Trump in suppressing vote

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We know why President Trump is opposing the Democrats’ call for $3.6 billion in election aid to states and a $25 billion emergency bailout for the U.S. Postal Service.

He doesn’t want Democrats to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic because he thinks that the more people who vote on Nov. 3, the less likely it is for him to win re-election.

How do we know this? Trump told us.

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” the president said of the Democrats in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo last Thursday,

“Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it,”  he added.

Trump later claimed without evidence that USPS’s enlarged role in the November election would perpetrate “one of the greatest frauds in history.”

Not everyone agrees that suppressing mail-in voting during a pandemic that has so far claimed the lives of more than 170,000 Americans will aid Trump.

The Republican Party usually does better with write-in votes than Democrats and the GOP plans to spend tens of millions in this election. But Trump’s repeated attacks against mail-in voting may actually tip the scales to the Democrats.

Trump’s assault on free and fair elections – which is to say our democracy – is being aided by his recent appointment of Louis DeJoy, a Republican mega-donor, as postmaster general.

In the name of modernizing the post office, DeJoy has cut overtime to postal workers, barred second trips by carriers to prevent mail delays and eliminated 671 machines used to sort mail quickly.

The result was a warning to 44 states by the postal service that it might not be able to meet their deadlines for delivering last-minute mail-in ballots.

The collateral damage from these cutbacks has been delays in the delivery of medicine, paychecks, Social Security checks, payments to small businesses and other essential items. You know, the little stuff.

The opposition from Democrats and a handful of Republicans has been fierce.

The inspector general for the post office has started an investigation, Democrats in Congress are calling for a criminal investigation, state attorneys general are eyeing violations of state election laws and the House Democrats are returning to Washington to investigate and propose laws to safeguards.

The move to suppress the vote by Trump and his allies is an extreme extension of Republican efforts across the country in recent years. Many in the GOP appear to believe that the only way to win is to cheat. And they very well may be right.

What we don’t understand is why Gov. Cuomo and a state Legislature controlled by fellow Democrats are cooperating, intentionally or not.

New York is only one of seven states in the country that requires voters to provide an excuse beyond COVID-19 fears to cast their votes by mail, according to a report in the Washington Post. The others are five Southern states and Indiana, home of Vice President Mike Pence.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have already made changes to their laws to aid mail-in voting.

Five states already vote almost exclusively by mail Many states are mailing ballots to every registered voter. Still, others are mailing an application to vote by mail to every registered voter.

But not New York. Which is strange.

Earlier in the year, Cuomo cleared the way for all New Yorkers to cast absentee ballots in the June 23 primary elections due to the coronavirus.

“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between their health and their civic duty,” Cuomo tweeted after his announcement.

So what’s changed?

Yes, New York has seen a dramatic drop in coronavirus infections and deaths that places it among the national success stories. But that was the result of a financially devastating shutdown and a strict adherence to wearing masks and social distancing.

And schools across the state are now planning to reopen in the fall – at a time that doctors and scientists fear may see a second wave of the coronavirus accompanied by the flu.

Do we really want to require millions of New Yorkers to visit polling places in a presidential election in which a record number of people are expected to vote?

One reason may be history. New York state for many years had some of the most restrictive election laws in the country.

It had no early voting, held federal and state primary elections on different days and had a loophole for LLCs that allowed companies to contribute virtually unlimited amounts to candidates.

That ended in January after Democrats gained control of the state Senate. The Legislature in January approved early voting, synchronized federal and state primary elections, eliminated the LLC loophole and enacted other measures.

This moved the state from the very bottom of the barrel to somewhere closer to the middle.

Another reason may be New York’s election boards, run by the Republican and Democratic parties, which use them as dumping grounds for the party faithful – not the best and the brightest. It’s time their operations were turned over to professionals.

And then there was the state’s handling of the June primaries. In the Washington Post’s words, it was an “election disaster.”

The state Board of Elections did not certify the results of those races until last week – a month and a half after the primary election.

During that time, thousands of mail-in ballots may have been tossed out for minor issues: Voters who taped their envelopes shut, who forgot to sign the envelopes or whose envelopes never got postmarked were liable to have their ballots thrown out.

The state Legislature voted last month on a package of election reforms. One would allow ballots that lack postmarks to be counted as long as they arrive by the day after Election Day. Another would require election officials to contact voters whose ballots are marked for disqualification, allowing them to confirm their identities and have their votes count.

But no change in the state’s policy of not allowing write-ins for coronavirus fears. No mailing of ballots to all registered voters. Not even a mailing of applications to all registered voters.

That would be too expensive? How about using the money state legislators spend on campaign mailings masquerading as keeping constituents up to date on their activities? Has anyone received a mailer on the New York laws that restrict voting?

Keep in mind that even with New York’s restrictive laws the number of ballot requests is still expected to spike.

Also, keep in mind mail-in voting will not be just for the presidential campaign but for congressional, state Senate and state Assembly races as well.

To handle these properly will require the acquisition of a large number of specialized envelopes and paper, additional staff and perhaps machines needed to open, sort and tabulate postal ballots and verify signatures. This staff needs to be trained and voters need to be educated in the process.

All of which requires money, money that Trump is doing all he can to prevent states from receiving. But that is no reason not to make these changes.

The governor and the Legislature should also extend the right to mail in ballots to everyone — whether the voter has a reason or not. They should purchase secure drop boxes to permit voters to cast their ballots in a secure way even if the post office continues to sabotage the mail.

And Attorney General Letitia James should join other state attorneys general in opposing the post office’s attempt to rig the election.

The president and his fellow Republicans are doing all they can to suppress the vote.

The governor and the state Legislature shouldn’t help them.

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