New Interview: I talked to Vanita Gupta, the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, about how to ensure a fair election, what the Trump administration is doing with the census, and the legal challenges we may see after November 3rd. https://t.co/1q3SHZHGSj
— Isaac Chotiner (@IChotiner) August 9, 2020
Yes, I always say this, but seriously: READ THE WHOLE THING. (And share it.)
Chotiner is a widely acknowledged master of the meaty interview, and Gupta spells out the vital issues in simple terms:
With the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of abating before November 3rd, Democrats and civil-rights groups are increasingly concerned that a slew of new mail-in voters will overwhelm states, leading to delayed counts and large numbers of rejected ballots. They are particularly concerned about the role of the U.S. Postal Service. In May, the Republican-majority Postal Service Board of Governors appointed a new Postmaster General, a Trump campaign donor named Louis DeJoy, who made operational changes that appear to have led to slowed delivery. Meanwhile, the President has repeatedly attacked the reliability of mail-in ballots, falsely claiming that they facilitate voter fraud.
To talk about these issues, I recently spoke by phone with Vanita Gupta, the president and C.E.O. of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an advocacy group founded in 1950. Gupta previously served as the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, under President Obama…
What are the crucial things that states should be doing to prepare for holding an election amid a pandemic?
Several things. One is they need to create or implement vote-by-mail systems in their state that have prepaid postage and secure collection or drop-off. States that don’t already have this have to provide a reasonable window to accept ballots postmarked on Election Day that may arrive after. And this is especially important in light of the cuts to the United States Postal Service made by the Trump donor who’s running the agency.
States also need to expand early voting in order to have socially distanced, public-health-compliant polling places. They need to extend online voter registration, since so many of the government agencies that people typically register at are shuttered. And they need to be recruiting and training younger workers who are less vulnerable to COVID-19, and doing that on a pretty massive scale.
These are all the rule changes that need to happen at the state level, but then there’s this very significant voter-education effort that states need to be engaging in, too. It’s both affirmative and defensive. Affirmative because, in 2016, one in four voters voted by mail. There is going to be a pretty significant surge in those that are going to do this for the first time. And clarifying how voters can do this, what the deadlines are and all of that, is going to require a lot of voter education. But then they also have to be willing to fight disinformation. There’s going to be attacks on secretaries of state and local and state officials on November 3rd when they are unable to certify results because they need to count all of the absentee or mail-in ballots.
We obviously need to have mail-in voting so that people don’t put their health on the line to go to a polling place, but do you have concerns that a ton of mail-in voting is going to create problems?
There are more states than not that have experience with mail-in ballots. The primaries were really a test run for states, and the problems that we saw in Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania can all be corrected, and secretaries of state have been taking steps. Many of them, not all, are trying to fix these problems and to be ready to make changes so that what we saw in the primary won’t happen in the general. And there are a lot of groups that are providing technical assistance. This is why the Leadership Conference has been urging Congress to supply the funds that are needed for states to make these changes and make them swiftly…