Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 62 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEd News:
General News    H1'ed 4/27/20

How COVID-19 Is Affecting 2020 Elections

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   4 comments, 3 series
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser
Become a Fan
  (89 fans)

My guest today is Steven Rosenfeld, author, editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Steven Rosenfeld
Steven Rosenfeld
(Image by courtesy of Steven Rosenfeld)
  Details   DMCA

Joan Brunwasser: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Steven. We are in the midst of election season. How has COVID-19 impacted campaigns and voting itself so far?

Steven Rosenfeld: It's turned the 2020 elections completely upside down. On March 10, I was in Michigan for its presidential primary. Two days later, the pandemic hit like a tidal wave. The presidential primary season stopped. People's focus shifted to buying food and then sheltering in place. In election policy circles, there was a widespread, though not unanimous assumption, that voting by mail would be an easy solution. It is now emerging that it is more easily said than done, especially when there's Republican opposition. Look at what happened in Wisconsin on April 7.

As far as emerging trends go, the states that have had the biggest voting rights fights in the past decade are becoming the settings where the biggest vote-by-mail battles are emerging. Voting by mail is not a simple process. Essentially, you have to register for a second time. There are so many steps along the way where the opponents of higher turnout elections can impose barriers. And there are finish line hurdles, where ballots are and aren't counted.

This is not happening in every red-run state. Not every Republican is embracing a new wave of voter suppression. But it is unfolding in the swing states and increasingly purple states where the GOP has dominated for years, but their base is aging and shrinking. The first evidence surrounds how easy or hard it is to get an absentee ballot in 2020's remaining primaries. That's important because these elections will give us clues about what to watch out for in the fall.

JB: Before we move on to what lies ahead, can you take a moment to recap what exactly happened in Wisconsin's primary, before and afterward, and why it matters? Many of our readers have not been following this unfolding story closely.

SR: Wisconsin was a "perfect storm" filled with warnings for the rest of 2020. To start, as a backdrop, the Trump campaign has said that it is the number one battleground state in 2020. Remember that RNC lawyer saying that the GOP was the party of voter suppression? That was last November, speaking in Wisconsin. He said Trump loses unless he wins the state.

The Purple State of Wisconsin
The Purple State of Wisconsin
(Image by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL)
  Details   DMCA

Politically, it's been under attack by right-wingers for years. Today it has a Democratic governor and Republican majority legislature--due to 2011's extreme gerrymander. Between the time that the governor was elected and took office, the legislature, in a lame-duck session, passed all of these laws taking away gubernatorial authority. This also happened in North Carolina. This power grab resurfaced at the last minute in the April 7 primary in ways that have nationwide implications this year.

Anyway, after Michigan's March 10 primary, every state except Wisconsin postponed their April primaries due to the pandemic. In Wisconsin, the Democratic governor did not immediately order a delay, even though the governor of Ohio did at the last minute. The legislature also didn't act, because, as conservative pundits from the state noted, one of the races on the ballot was for a state supreme court seat. The GOP leadership believed that their chances of getting a high-court majority were better if the election were held in a pandemic. They thought that fears about getting the virus would counter Democrats.. They wanted to drive down turnout.

JB: Yikes! That's so blatant!

SR: Then things got crazy. Late in the week before the April 7 election, the lawsuits began. What ended up happening is a federal district court agreed to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned, so they would be counted -- they could be postmarked up to a week after the election. That was a positive move. But that ruling was immediately appealed and challenged in separate litigation filed by the state legislature, the state Republican Party and Republican National Committee. Think about that, the RNC intervened in a primary where they didn't even have a contested candidate. It was all about setting the stage for the fall.

Let's pause and think about this from a voter perspective. It's a week or more before the 2020 primary. There's lots of political rhetoric and noise but the election is still on schedule. Voters had to apply for an absentee ballot if they didn't want to vote in person. That's akin to registering to vote for a second time in the same election. Then they have to get the ballot in the mail. Then they have to fill it out properly. Then they have to mail it back and have it return on time. As the week before the election unfolded, tens of thousands of applications and ballots were arriving and being mailed out every day, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission website.

So voters were scrambling. And so we election officials. Because of the virus, large numbers of poll workers said they couldn't staff the election. Most are 60 or older and they feared for their health. So, in disproportionate ways in different cities and towns, the local election officials began to close longtime precincts and create consolidated vote centers. This was all happening quickly. But election officials wanted to preserve an in-person voting option, because the state only had six percent of its voters cast absentee ballots in 2018. Lots of people, from people registering to vote on Election Day to people with disabilities, vote at polls.

Come Monday, the day before the election, the governor issued an order to postpone due to health reasons. The state's Republicans immediately sued and told election officials to keep preparing for an election. The state Supreme Court (its conservative majority) ruled later on Monday, that the governor did not have the authority to delay the election, citing the lame-duck session laws. Later that day, the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority ruled the same way. So, what's important there for 2020 is we have a judiciary that is elevating previously adopted state laws, however anti-democratic, above voting rights and public health.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Well Said 2   Must Read 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Joan Brunwasser Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Interview with Dr. Margaret Flowers, Arrested Tuesday at Senate Roundtable on Health Care

Renowned Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck on "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success"

Howard Zinn on "The People Speak," the Supreme Court and Haiti

Snopes confirms danger of Straight Ticket Voting (STV)

Fed Up With Corporate Tax Dodgers? Check Out!

Literary Agent Shares Trade Secrets With New Writers

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend