Protect democracy by protecting the vote count

The Santa Fe New Mexican, October 31,  2020

My View – Editor’s Pick

By John House

On Tuesday, November 3, or perhaps for days or weeks thereafter, Americans still might not know the final results of the 2020 presidential election. Hopefully, no matter who wins, the loser will gallantly concede and the transition of power will be normal and peaceful. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has indicated that he might not accept the election results if Democratic candidate Joe Biden is the winner.

During a July 19 interview, when asked if he would concede the results if he lost to Biden, the president replied: “I have to see. I’m not just going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no.” Later in the same interview, he suggested he might reject the results if he loses because he believes that vote-by-mail would taint the election. Attorney General William Barr, without citing evidence, later echoed that theme, although Christopher Krebs, the head of the president’s own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, has said that he is confident “that your vote is secure.”

In addition, the president’s recently appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ordered critical changes to the U.S. Postal Service, ending overtime pay and removing nearly 700 mail-sorting machines and large numbers of external mailboxes. When called before Congress on Aug. 24, DeJoy vowed to reverse such actions and said that making sure mailed ballots are delivered would be his top priority. Yet, the next day he ordered postal police officers to stop investigating theft that occurs away from postal property. In addition, the president has made remarks that could encourage his supporters to engage in voter intimidation.

All this leads to the probability that this election will not just be contested in the courts. The signs lead to possible interference with the counting of ballots and other, even more egregious acts of interference, such as Republican legislatures in states won by Biden sending to the Electoral College a slate of electors to vote for Trump.

If an election-based power grab does not come to pass, the system will have worked and we can go back happily to our daily lives. If not, it will be up to us to play our part in protecting the legitimate election results and seeing that a proper transition of power occurs.

What can people do in the event of a political power grab? What we cannot do is sit by and watch our democracy stolen from us. We must act. We must exercise our right to peaceful civil disobedience to make it clear that the American people will not accept a stolen election.

Fortunately, Choose Democracy and other nonprofit groups have researched, planned and prepared for such an eventuality. They offer a variety of information and resources to help people across the country effectively and peacefully organize and demonstrate. The Transition Integrity Project and Hold the Line have produced thoughtful analyses and planning documents that can be found online. Protect the Results offers a guide that allows people to enter a ZIP code and sign up for events nearby.

Smart Elections’ Count the Vote initiative and Choose Democracy also are providing a series of valuable recorded training sessions. RepresentUs offers six steps to save the vote at https://represent.us/6-steps-to-save-the-vote.

New Mexico state and local organizations, including RepresentUs New Mexico, Indivisible Santa Fe and Count the Vote-NM also are actively working with these national organizations and will be coordinating local events and actions to bring about an organized, peaceful, popular and firm stand in support of our democracy.

John House, a resident of Santa Fe, is president of RepresentUs New Mexico.