With criticism of mail-order fraud and his manoeuvres to obstruct the census, U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be laying the groundwork to discourage participation in the November election, and in the longer term to restrict minority voting as a strategy of electoral dominance.

The White House insisted Friday on the doubts about the legitimacy of the mail vote raised Thursday by Trump in a tweet suggesting that due to the possibilities of fraud the elections should be postponed, something unprecedented in the history of American democracy and which raised the opposition of both Democratic and Republican legislators.

“Always a system in which ballots are sent en masse is going to have a greater risk of fraud,” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said today, saying there is a risk that ballots sent to registered voters will be used to commit impersonation fraud, something no independent expert believes possible.

Trump adviser Stephen Miller used the pulpit of the popular Fox and Friends show today to reiterate the misinformation about the “catastrophic” mail ballot, on which ballots are automatically sent to voters, a practice carried out by 14 states and common in much of Europe.

“One thing the audience should consider: nobody has to confirm their identity in the mail ballot, they don’t even check if you are a citizen,” Miller said, which is different from reality because states with this system authenticate the signature, some require witnesses and others ask for a copy of an ID.

A study released today by researchers from Harvard, Rutgers and other universities shows that 22 per cent of Americans oppose absentee voting, which is expected to soar because of the risks involved in going to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the researchers’ survey, 63% of Americans expect to participate in one of the available forms of postal voting, up from 21% who voted by mail in the 2016 election.

The increase in absentee voting, whether by ballot sent to the voter or at the citizen’s request (which Trump considers more reliable), has not led to significant fraud to date but could create logistical problems in the postal service and on validating and counting ballots.

In the middle of this month, several Democratic candidates in the New York primary, led by former Barack Obama’s advisor and House candidate Suraj Patel, sued the state government for rejecting valid mail ballots that were not marked, which is not the voter’s fault and could change the outcome of the election Patel was running in.

The June primaries in New York State, one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, were a trial run and a taste of the difficulties that will be involved in managing the increase in mail ballots in the weeks leading up to November 3.

DISCOURAGING VOTING

Former President Barack Obama warned Thursday at the funeral of African-American congressman and activist John Lewis that “those in power are doing everything they can to dissuade people from going to vote” with “surgical precision.

According to law professor Rick Hasen of Irvine College, Trump wants to suppress voter participation with his statements rather than postpone the election.

What surprises him is that he does so in a way that can also affect his more loyal voter base. “If you put pressure on the balloon to explode, it will explode, but it will explode for everyone,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

BEYOND 2020

The Trump Administration is also hampering the implementation of the 2020 census, which will define, among other things, the distribution of the political weight of states and electoral districts, as well as the representation of Hispanic and African-American minorities.

NPR today revealed that the Census Bureau has cut the already short time frame by one month for its employees to go to homes that have not been registered virtually, making it impossible, according to sources, to do an adequate count of all persons residing in the country.

Forty per cent of households have not yet registered on the census, something that without personal visits puts at risk mostly immigrant communities and communities of colour, which could be left with fewer legislators, less weight in the electoral system that elects the president and lose billions of dollars in public aid and services.

Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Patel’s opponent in the mail-order vote count mess, said this week that Trump is “using the census as a weapon” against immigrants and to help Republicans improve their chances of winning the election.

He made those statements at an emergency hearing in the House of Representatives with Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham following the White House’s request that undocumented immigrants not be included in the census statistics, a practice also unprecedented and which could deprive groups far removed from the white voter, Trump’s dwindling voting pool, of political representation for years.

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