John Locke, a 17th-century English philosopher, attacked the doctrine of the “divine right of kings,” arguing legitimate governments depend on the governed’s consent. A half-century later, our Declaration of Independence echoed those words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” As the November 3rd election nears, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden maintain it will be the most consequential election in U.S. history. With that in mind, Republicans and Democrats genuinely concerned about America’s future should unite to ensure the most significant number of potentially eligible voters are registered, go to the polls, and ensure their votes are counted.
Unfortunately, the president has transformed this sacred hallmark of our nearly 250 experiment into a conspiratorial crusade to convince his supporters that the only way he could lose would be the result of the most corrupt and fraudulent election U.S. history. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are preparing to cast their ballot through the mail. Meanwhile, Trump has done everything in his power to depict mail-in voting – without any evidence – as rampant with fraud. Many experts, including U.S. intelligence agencies, agree that nearly all examples Trump and his supporters have made concerning alleged mail-in voting fraud are vastly overblown. His unsubstantiated and disproven voter fraud claims dating back to 2016 when he refused to accept that Hillary won the popular vote by more than 3,000,000 votes.
In addition to Trump’s baseless assertions of widespread voter fraud, other forms of voter disenfranchisement will compound many people’s inability to vote. The president has failed to speak out against the elimination of polling places, disturbingly in precincts occupied by Democrats and minorities. Additionally, he has supported the unregulated purging of voter rolls. While eliminating the names of those who have verifiably died or moved out of a voting district is necessary, removing names simply because a person declined to vote in recent elections is a misuse of power. Furthermore, Trump has threatened to send some form of law enforcement to polling places to bolster security and prevent voter fraud, but many see this as a thinly-veiled form of voter intimidation.
Deadlines for registering to vote and receipt of mail-in votes vary widely across the country, often lacking any justification. If IRS and state tax returns postmarked by midnight on April 15th are on-time, there are no justifiable reasons why votes should not count if postmarked at a U.S. Post Office by the close of the polls in their state. Counting such otherwise eligible ballots must be allowed to continue after November 3rd, if necessary. Many media outlets are reporting that it could take days to count votes, which means that we may not have a definitive winner on the Election Night.
The critical date for states to certify their results is not until December 8th, six days before the electoral colleges convene to vote, the “safe harbor” deadline preempting any risk of Congress getting involved and resolving a potential dispute which candidate won a particular state’s electoral college votes. But for now, as we close in on November 3rd, the people must demand an open, free, and fair election, which provides the highest level of opportunity for the largest number of qualified voters. It is our patriotic duty.