The best kept secret in the electoral struggle for the battleground state of Pennsylvania is that voters who have requested mail-in ballots can easily trade them in at their local polling places and vote in person on Election Day.
This is the only way to be sure they will be counted before Trump goes to a newly-stacked Supreme Court to stop the count process, and it is the best way to avoid an estimated 6% of valid mail-in votes from being disqualified because of minor technical errors.
Whether Biden is our next president may depend upon his campaign focusing some of its enormous advertising budget on educating Pennsylvania voters of this fact during the next few days.
“Asking people to vote by mail because of the pandemic seemed like a good idea at the time” may turn out to be the famous last words of Biden’s election bid.
When COVID-19 first hit during the spring primaries, Democrats assumed, naively, that Republican lawmakers would join them in making it easier and safer to vote by mail. They also overestimated the danger of in-person voting with masks, which the CDC this summer reported is essentially no more dangerous than going to the supermarket.
Fast forward to the vote-suppressing ambush that Democrats have walked into in Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes make it the state widely seen as the “tipping point” of the 2020 election. Two and a half times as many Democrats as Republicans, more than 1.8 million Biden voters, have requested and received mail-in ballots in the state.
If all of these Biden voters mail in their ballots instead of trading them in (with their envelopes) as they register to vote at the ballot box on November 3, it will result in a chaos-causing “red mirage” of a Trump victory in the must-carry state on election night.
That’s because Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the country (along with Michigan and Wisconsin) where gerrymandered Republican state legislative majorities have insisted that the counting of mail-in ballots cannot, by law, begin until Election Day.
As a result, it will be impossible to count most of the mail-in ballots in these three states until after Trump follows through on his repeated threat to get the Supreme Court to shut down vote counting after he announces victory based on the immediate results from in-person voting machines. This will not be the case in the other 47 states, most of which have either early voting in person (different than drop-off mail-in ballots), sufficient time to process and count mail-in ballots as they arrive, or both.
It would be foolish to feel complacent about a Biden victory because of his consistent lead in national polls. On Election Day 2016, HuffPost pollster, based on an aggregate of all polling and modelling during the preceding weeks, estimated that Hillary Clinton held a 98% chance of winning.
What’s more, as an investigative journalist who has dealt with our president’s duplicity longer than any reporter (since his notorious 1982 Forbes 400/John Baron con), I have learned that we should never underestimate the criminal lengths Trump will go to in order to win, as well as his brutal ability to corrupt every person and institution that he has power over.
This includes the Supreme Court.
On September 19, at a North Carolina campaign rally, Trump brazenly announced his plan to steal this election through his unrelenting corruption of our judiciary.
“We’re gonna have a victory on November 3rd the likes of which you’ve never seen,” Trump promised his supporters. “Now we’re counting on the federal court system to make it so that we can actually have an evening where we know who wins. Not where the votes are going to be counted a week later or two weeks later.
(our video above shows Trump saying this 10 seconds in)
Rushing the coronation of Amy Coney Barrett through the Senate while an election is in process is an essential part of Trump’s conspiracy to steal the election.
On October 19, The Supreme Court split 4 to 4 on a decision to override a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling to allow the counting of legitimate mail-in ballots that, due to postal delays, arrive a few days after Election Day. The Pennsylvania Court made its findings based on its interpretation of their state constitution’s guarantee of free and open elections. Since the U.S. Constitution provides individual states with the power to regulate elections, deference to state rights would have suggested an 8 to 0 decision upholding the ruling.
But despite their claim to be “originalists” and “strict constitutionalists,” Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, Bret Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch (who, along with Amy Coney Barrett, had participated in helping Republicans win the 2000 Bush vs. Gore decision) joined Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in voting to override the state court and disqualify the votes. Because they lacked a fifth vote, the lower court’s decision stood.
Trump and his enablers in the Senate are ramming through Barrett’s confirmation so that she can begin hearing cases as early as October 27, when they have little doubt she will form a reliable fifth vote to rubber stamp whatever meritless stop-the-vote-count case Trump brings to the Supreme Court right after Election Day.
Amy Coney Barrett is a judge with so little integrity she refused to accept, even after Senator Amy Klobuchar read her the federal statute outlawing it, that the right of people to vote without intimidation is a law she would necessarily enforce on the Supreme Court. Nor was Barrett willing to state that a peaceful transfer of power was guaranteed in the Constitution, despite the fact that the Constitution was written for this very purpose.
Barrett’s refusal to agree to uphold the most fundamental elements of U.S. law should cause any Senator with integrity to vote against her confirmation to the Supreme Court.
But nearly every Republican Senator will vote for her. “This cake is baked as far as a future Barrett justice of the Supreme Court is concerned,” Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said on Tuesday. “There is no reason to think she would not be the fifth vote in this kind of Pennsylvania case, throwing out millions and millions of ballots.”
To make matters even more precarious for a Biden victory in the linchpin 20-electoral vote Keystone State, Pennsylvania is the only one of the three states forbidding early vote counting in which Trump’s campaign has won a court ruling enforcing a draconian technicality requirement to eliminate “naked ballots.” An antiquated secrecy system requiring one envelope to be signed and placed into a second envelope in order to be counted in Pennsylvania is expected to cause an estimated 6% of Biden mail-in votes to be disqualified.
If all Pennsylvania Biden voters who requested mail-in ballots dropped them off in boxes or posted instead of exchanging them at polling places and voting in person, nearly 120,000 ballots will be disqualified. Trump carried Pennsylvania in 2016 by only 44,000 votes out of more than 6 million cast.
The potential good news, for Biden, is that to date barely half of Pennsylvania’s Democratic mail-in voters have returned their ballots.
If two-thirds of the Democratic voters who have not yet posted their mail-in ballots decided to instead vote in person, nearly 50,000 Biden votes will be saved from technical disqualifications, more than the number Clinton lost by in 2016.
And it would still leave plenty of room for hundreds of thousands of citizens who are disabled, immune-compromised or financially unable to find the time to wait on Election Day voting lines to mail their ballots in.
Those who plan to vote by mail should mail or drop their ballots off early, and be very careful to place the signed envelope containing their ballot in the outer envelope. Stephen Colbert has created an easy short video for Pennsylvania voters, embedded here:
A Democratic shift in Pennsylvania to more in-person voting would have the additional benefit of significantly reducing the number of mail-in votes that the state’s election officials will have to count on November 3 and the days to follow.
This would mitigate the prospect of a red mirage on Election night, and make it far more difficult for Trump to steal the election with a Supreme Court ruling to stop mail-in votes from being counted.
The Biden campaign has already spent more than $120 million in Pennsylvania and will be spending millions more there each day. Convincing voters who already support Biden to, if they are able, vote in person instead of by mail, is a lot less expensive an ad buy than convincing the relatively few undecided voters to choose Biden instead of Trump.
Biden and other Democratic Party leaders could also reach voters directly for free, just by making this specific request during their many Pennsylvania speeches and interviews.
Apart from a landslide, which is out of Biden’s control, the best action Biden can take to stop Trump’s desperate plan to steal this election and save our democracy is to ask Pennsylvanians with mail-in ballots to vote in person on Election Day.