Where Will We Be Three Months from Now?

August, 21, 2020

by John House

 What will the country look like three months from now? Will we be at home with our loved ones and friends peacefully celebrating or, alternatively, reluctantly accepting, the results of a fair and uncontested election? Or will we be marching in the streets in Washington, D.C.,, instead, protesting against election results either tainted with doubt or obviously manipulated, false? Will we have a president who refuses to leave office despite losing the election? Will Washington look like Minsk, the capital of Belarus, weeks ago, with its streets filled with tens of thousands of peaceful protestors demonstrating their just outrage against false election results? Or could Washington more resemble Bamako, the capital of the West African country, Mali, earlier this week, with the streets full of demonstrators joyfully celebrating the resignation, forced by a coup, of its detested, autocratic president? Or will it  look more like the streets of Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland and Seattle multiplied a thousand fold, with demonstrators facing off against squads, or even battalions, of national guard and military soldiers dressed in full battle gear and wielding deadly military weapons?

I hope the nation will be at rest, getting back to normal as much as we will be able to, with the elections behind us. But the fact that I can realistically posit these other, post-election possibilities deeply underscores the fact that the 2020 elections will be like no other in American history. The very foundation of the republic, our system of representative government, is built upon is the right of eligible citizens of the United States to cast their votes and empower the persons they want to represent them in government. But the ground underneath that government has been weakened, unsettled, like after an earthquake, by very real and threatened efforts to make it difficult to vote. The closure of voting places and the reduction of open hours of others and have been announced. The security and reliability of absentee and mail-in voting that has been used by the military as far back as the Revolutionary War and by the citizens in most states since the early 20th century is being discredited. The United States Postal Service has been hobbled by the removal of essential equipment and the lowering of postal worker hours at a time when absentee and mail-in voting has become crucial for persons facing the choice of either endangering their lives to vote in person or not vote at all. As a result of these and other actions by some in power at the federal and state levels, the voting process so much that it has discouraged some from voting because they have cynically concluded that their vote won’t matter.

The answer to the question–what will the country look like after the elections?–depends entirely on us. Each of us. All of us. What we do between now and November 3rd will determine where we will be and what this nation will look like not just in the weeks and months following the elections but for many years to come. It may very well determine if the American democratic experiment will continue or end. This country already has been moved off the solid ground of true representative democracy and has slipped down the slope towards plutocracy and oligarchy. In the presidential election, with an incumbent president who believes that presidential authority is total and has totally disregarded the rule of law, and an attorney general who shares his beliefs and helps him violate our constitutional system of checks and balances almost on a daily basis, it teeters on the brink of falling into the abyss of autocracy.

Make a Voting Plan and Follow It

You can best ensure your own participation in the election process by making and following your own individual voting plan. Here’s how:

  • Verify if you are registered to vote by going here. If you are not registered, you can register online by going here.
  • Decide whether you will vote absentee by mail or at the ballot box.
  • If you decide to vote absentee and haven’t already received a request for an absentee ballot in the mail (if you have not requested one, you may receive a request for an absentee ballot in the mail before September 14), you will need to request an absentee ballot. You can print out a request for an absentee ballot here and mail it in or deliver it to your county clerk’s office. NOTE: IMPORTANT DEADLINE: your request for your absentee ballot must be received on or before Tuesday, October 20th.
  • Set the date on your calendar that you will either 1) go to the polling place to vote in person or 2) send in your absentee ballot by mail or deposit your envelope containing your ballot in a drop box that will be available at your county clerk’s office or at other designated If you use a “Reminders”, “Tasks” or a similar app, set the date and time in it as well.
  • VOTE EARLY!!! You can put your absentee ballot in mail in your absentee ballot anytime before Tuesday, October 27. Note: it must be received by the post office on that date. Don’t make the mistake of depositing it in a mail box after the time of the last pickup; your vote will not be counted!
  • Early voting in person starts Tuesday, October 6th, at your county clerk’s office and on Saturday, October 17th, at other locations. Early voting in person ends on October 31. Check with your county clerk’s office for those locations and hours of operation.
  • If you choose to vote in person but don’t have your own transportation, please arrange it in advance and confirm it with the person or service that will transport you to and from the voting location prior to the day and time you chose.
  • If you decide to vote absentee, fill out your ballot carefully, making sure to input all the required information correctly and legibly and either deliver it to the post office, your county clerk’s office, or deposit into a special drop box available at any polling place during its hours of operation. NOTE: All absentee ballots must be mailed out to voters by the County Clerk’s office by  on Wednesday, October 21.

How to Know if Your Absentee Vote is Received

We in New Mexico can help to ensure that our vote will be counted by voting early and verifying the results prior to the November 3rd election.

We can personally keep track of our mail-in ballots. The bar code on the return envelope for each absentee ballot is individual to each absentee voter.  Early voters can check their absentee ballot status by going here.

For more information about voting and how your vote is protected you can go here.

How to Help to Ensure Safe and Secure Elections

You can help to make sure that our polling places function properly by applying to be a poll worker. To learn how, go here.

Organizations like Common Cause New Mexico have programs to secure the integrity of our elections. If you are interested in volunteering to serve as an independent poll water with CCNM, go here. You can also go to that site to report any suspicious election irregularities.

Tell Your Friends and Loved Ones

Go the extra mile to make sure that the people you know exercise their right and citizen’s obligation to vote and share with them the information set forth here with them. It will be featured on our website and on our Facebook page.

A representative democracy can only work properly if its citizenry is informed and votes! So please, familiarize yourself with the issues and the candidates and make sure you vote early and encourage everyone you know to do the same.

John House is President of RepresentUs New Mexico.

Udall, Heinrich Urge USPS Postmaster General to Fix Delays and Avoid Cost Increases for Election Mail

cid:image001.png@01D614D8.E7ADB220FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2020

Letter follows reports that USPS will depart from long-standing practice of prioritizing election mail, delaying delivery times unless states pay more and while Trump USPS appointee faces several reports of ethics violations

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined all Senate Democrats in a letter demanding answers from U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after state election officials reported recent changes to longstanding practices at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which would increase delivery times and costs for election mail, measures that threaten the vast number of voters seeking to cast their votes by mail this November.

Since President Donald J. Trump appointed DeJoy, a top Trump campaign donor, the Postmaster General has instituted structural changes to the department causing unprecedented delays. Despite increased use of the mail and USPS delivery services due to the coronavirus pandemic, DeJoy has cut overtime for the millions of postal workers serving communities across the country and made other changes that could make it both more difficult and expensive for Americans to vote by mail. As the nation nears the November presidential elections and more Americans than ever are planning to vote by mail to stay safe and prevent unnecessary spread of the coronavirus, DeJoy is reportedly planning to raise election mail rates to First Class in order to be prioritized. The move threatens to delay time-sensitive ballots and disenfranchise American voters who mail their ballots before the date of the election.

DeJoy has refused to provide Congress with satisfactory answers on his actions and continues to assert that election officials must pay the First Class rate for election mail to be prioritized. This letter follows previous requests from the lawmakers that demanded answers from DeJoy after he refused to answer whether reported changes restricting mail delivery came at his direction. DeJoy has since confirmed changes in delayed mail came at his direction.

“Like voting itself, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is vital to our democracy. Since you assumed the role of Postmaster General, there have been disturbing reports regarding changes at USPS that are causing significant delays in the delivery of mail. Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem – during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic,” the senators wrote. “Instead of taking steps to increase your agency’s ability to deliver for the American people, you are implementing policy changes that make matters worse, and the Postal Service is reportedly considering changes that would increase costs for states at a time when millions of Americans are relying on voting by mail to exercise their right to vote.”

“We have received reports that in the last several weeks, the Postal Service sent letters to state election officials that indicate that the Postal Service will not automatically treat all election mail as First Class,” the senators continued. “If any changes are made to longstanding practices of moving election mail just months ahead of the 2020 general election, it will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions.”

“As Postmaster General, you have a duty to our democracy to ensure the timely delivery of election mail. Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done. We urge you not to increase costs for election officials, and to direct all Postal Service employees to continue to prioritize delivery of election mail,” the senators concluded.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Postmaster DeJoy:

We write to express significant concern regarding reports that you are implementing policy changes that will increase the cost for timely delivery of election mail, and to urge you not to take any action that makes it harder and more expensive for Americans to vote.

Like voting itself, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is vital to our democracy. Since you assumed the role of Postmaster General, there have been disturbing reports regarding changes at USPS that are causing significant delays in the delivery of mail. Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem – during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic. Instead of taking steps to increase your agency’s ability to deliver for the American people, you are implementing policy changes that make matters worse, and the Postal Service is reportedly considering changes that would increase costs for states at a time when millions of Americans are relying on voting by mail to exercise their right to vote.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) allows state and local officials to send materials authorized or required under the Act, such as absentee ballot applications, at USPS Nonprofit Marketing Mail prices. These prices are lower than the regular USPS Marketing Mail prices and election officials across the country rely on the lower rates to send voters important election mail in a cost-effective manner. Absentee ballots themselves are not specifically covered under the NVRA; however, many jurisdictions receive the lower rate for ballots as well because they utilize the Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) information from returned ballots for list maintenance activities prescribed under the NVRA. The practice of mailing out ballots as Marketing Mail has been formalized to the degree that the 2020 Official Election Mail Kit (Kit 600) sent to election officials in January 2020 includes advice on how to decide whether to send ballots by First Class or Marketing Mail.

While First Class mail normally has a delivery standard of 2-5 days, and Nonprofit Marketing Mail has a delivery standard of 3-10 days, it has been the practice of USPS to treat all election mail as First Class mail regardless of the paid class of service. Reports from the USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) support the fact that USPS has traditionally prioritized election mail. An OIG report on the 2018 elections found that 95.6 percent of election and political mail was delivered within the 1-3 day service standard applied to First Class mail. That is extremely close to the USPS overall goal of delivering 96 percent of First Class mail within the 1-3 day service standard and clearly indicates that election mail was being processed across the country as if First Class service standards applied. In addition, the OIG also conducted interviews in which area and facility managers stated that they treat all election mail as First Class mail.

We have received reports that in the last several weeks, the Postal Service sent letters to state election officials that indicate that the Postal Service will not automatically treat all election mail as First Class. If any changes are made to longstanding practices of moving election mail just months ahead of the 2020 general election, it will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions. Many state deadlines allow voters to request absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots within a few days of Election Day, so it is vital that standard delivery times remain low and pricing remain consistent with past practices to which election officials and voters are accustomed.

As you know, state laws set deadlines for voter registration, absentee ballot requests, and ballot postmarking and/or delivery. Changes to previous practices regarding election mail would upset these timelines. Furthermore, changing any policy for election mail only months before Election Day does not give election officials sufficient time to respond by changing deadlines set in law, especially since many state legislatures have adjourned.

Although some election jurisdictions may be able to send their election mail at the First Class rate, the overwhelming majority of jurisdictions simply do not have sufficient resources to do so. Election officials are coping with budgets that are severely strained by the increase in requests for absentee ballots and other costs associated with the pandemic. Despite our continued efforts, Congress has so far only provided states with $400 million in emergency funding for elections—billions short of what experts say is needed to keep voters safe this year. As election officials across the country plead with Congress to authorize additional election funding, reports suggest the Postal Service could implement changes that suddenly increase costs for Americans to safely vote. That is wrong and unacceptable.

As Postmaster General, you have a duty to our democracy to ensure the timely delivery of election mail. Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done. We urge you not to increase costs for election officials, and to direct all Postal Service employees to continue to prioritize delivery of election mail.

We understand you have committed to being more forthcoming and transparent with Congress and the American people regarding your work as Postmaster, including the Postal Service’s plan to successfully deliver election mail during the 2020 elections. Accordingly, we ask you to publicly release this plan and provide answers to the following questions no later than August 25.
1. Prior to 2020 it was the practice of the Postal Service to prioritize the delivery of all election mail, including voter registration materials, absentee ballot request, and ballots, to meet the equivalent of First Class delivery times no matter what class of mail was used to send it. Will the Postal Service commit to continuing this practice?
2. Will the Postal Service commit to continuing its longstanding practice of allowing election officials to mail ballots to voters at Nonprofit Marketing Mail Rates?
3. Has USPS headquarters staff provided any guidance, formally or informally, in writing or verbally, regarding the service standards to be applied to election mail not sent at the First Class rate? Please provide copies of any such guidance.
4. Please provide copies of any letters or guidance sent to state or local election officials regarding the service standards that will be applied to election mail.

Sincerely,

###

Go here to find out how to contact Sens. Udall and Heinrich

DISCLAIMER: RepresentUs New Mexico (RUNM) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish our goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of RUNM’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of RUNM.

Saturday, July 20 Panel Discussion a Huge Success

Those who battled the summer doldrums and midday heat to attend New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics’ Saturday, July 20 General Meeting were in for a special treat. The panel discussion featuring NM Senators Peter Wirth and Nancy Rodriguez and NM House Reps Andrea Romero and Daymon Ely was nothing less than stirring and scintillating. And so was the Q & A session that followed.

Our state elected officials candidly shared with us their feeling of satisfaction over the  success of the 2019 legislative session that was such a stark contrast with the immense frustration and disappointment that they had experienced in prior years. Freshman Rep. Andrea Romero expressed her exhilaration over being a contributor to the passage of 15 bills.  The panelists talked about the journey through the legislature of Senator Wirth’s campaign finance disclosure bills that brought additional levels of transparency to the campaign process, the tremendous success of the National Popular Vote bill that Senator Rodriguez had co-sponsored, and the passage of the early voting and same-day voting bills that will make exercising the right to vote so much easier for more New Mexicans.

They  also discussed some of the bills pertaining to other democracy reform issues that did not make it to the Governor’s desk.  Sen. Ely mentioned that he was disappointed that the open primaries bill he sponsored didn’t pass but said he believed it could do so in the near future.  Looking ahead to the 2020 and 2021 sessions, our panelists expressed hope for and confidence in the ability to secure adoption of legislation restricting the “revolving door” between the legislature and lobbying and increasing the reach of public campaign finance in the state to counter the effect of private large money donations.

Our panelists clearly enjoyed the opportunity to speak and exchange ideas with us constituents, and the audience was extremely appreciative for that opportunity.  It was something that we can and must do again. I want to thank again our panelists and the people who came to attend the discussion for making it such a special event.

— John House, President