Skip to content Skip to footer

Election Hot Takes #1 & #2: Marcy Rein and Van Gosse

Article published:
Photo of Donald Trump speaking at a podium with American flag behind him

Election 2020 hot takes on Vote Stealing and Trump’s threat to seize power.


November 4 Message from OrgUp: Count Every Vote

#1: From suppressing the vote to stealing it

At this point we’re talking about stealing votes, not suppressing them.

Voters on Election Day and before suffered serious harassment and “logistical” problems. Election Defenders monitored local news and social media, and noted events like police pepper-spraying a peaceful march to the polls in Graham, NC. SeeSay2020, a project of the NAACP, Reclaim Our Vote, and Democracy Labs, documented and mapped close to 1,000 incidents of voter suppression ranging from misinformation to intimidation. Overlaying the map of incidents on one of demographics, it shows the clear racist pattern.

But still voters turned out in record numbers, and Election Day went more calmly than expected. Thousands of Election Defenders at polling sites across the country provided water, snacks and PPE, “know your rights” information when needed, and #JoyToThePolls.

Your inbox needs more left. Sign up for our newsletter.

The numbers would have been even larger if crucial blocs of voters had not been disenfranchised, notably returning citizens in Florida. More than 50,000 formerly incarcerated people voted – cause for celebration, as the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition noted. That was less than 10% of the 775,000 who could have cast ballots without the poll tax imposed by the state legislature -but more than enough to flip the presidential race blue.

With votes in make-or-break states still remaining to be counted, the GOP is doing everything to invalidate ballots and stop the count. Some states, like Texas, can simply toss mail-in ballots for “signature problems.” Other states notify voters and give them a chance to fix them. Seed the Vote plans to work with partners in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to notify voters who need to “cure” signature problems.

The big heist is the one-two of the US Postal Service and courts. The USPS slowed delivery of completed ballots in the days before the election and then defied a court order to speed up.  Meanwhile, GOP lawyers have filed suit to stop the count of late-arriving ballots. Democrats and voting rights groups will contest in the courts.  Choose Democracy and its partners have moved the needle on the “Coup-o-meter”: it hovers between “preparing for a coup” and “attempted coup.” Mass actions are scheduled today to demand #CountEveryVote.

Marcy Rein is a writer, editor, organizer and co-author of Free City! The Fight for San Francisco’s City College and Education for All (with Mickey Ellinger and Vicki Legion), forthcoming from PM Press.

#2: The seizure of power

Premise:  minus a turn-out by his base that proves polling genuinely irrelevant (which could happen), Trump’s only chance of staying in power is to game the Electoral College.  To do that requires state legislatures under Republican control exercising their “constitutional authority” to name electors regardless of the popular vote. How could this happen?

  1. Trump’s campaign files a blizzard of lawsuits starting at 1 am on November 4, insisting that votes were illegally received and should be thrown out in all the battleground states. They do not expect to win these suits, but their point is to introduce uncertainty into the process, a veneer of legality.
  2. Meanwhile, groups of concerned citizens and militias without apparent central direction start picketing, blockading, and then breaking into the hundreds of buildings in those states where tens of millions of mailed, absentee, and early ballots are being counted. Their purpose, abetted by Trump’s repeated exhortations, will be to prevent “fraud.”
  3. These groups confiscate or destroy large numbers of ballots, which are now irretrievably lost and can never be counted.
  4. In late November, Republican leaders in states like Pennsylvania insist that a) the election is tainted by evidence of widespread Democratic fraud and incompetence, b) continued civil strife is dangerous, and c) they have a responsibility to name electors to ensure a smooth transition of power.
  5. Of course, Democratic governors and elected officials in the states under contention send their own slates of electors to Congress.
  6. Congress meets, with little clarity about where the final authority to approve state electors lies, and punts to the Supreme Court. You know what happens then.

What could stop the above?  Where there are Democratic governors (as in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin), they need to mobilize the National Guard to protect the sites where ballots will be counted in each state.  Outside those states (in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, for instance, with governors who are essentially political thugs), only the most massive citizen mobilization can guarantee a free and fair count.  Activists in those states need to put a wall of nonviolent resistance around the locations where votes are counted, and keep those walls up.

Van Gosse is a Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall. After writing about the New Left “movement of movements” for some years, he now studies black politics between the Revolution and the Civil War. He has been active in peace and solidarity work since the 1980s (CISPES, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice) and helped found Historians Against the War, now H-PAD, in 2003.