About a dozen community members gathered at the Ann Arbor Federal Building Saturday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump proposing a delayed presidential election because of absentee voting. The Stop Trump Ann Arbor and Refuse Fascism organizers were joined by Ann Arbor Beyond Bernie members advocating for United States Postal Service funding.
Democratic politicians heavily criticized Trump’s proposal, and Republicans cast doubt on the seriousness of his Thursday tweet.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump wrote. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Ann Arbor resident Jessica Prozinski, cofounder of Stop Trump Ann Arbor, told the protesters Trump’s question marks don’t fool her.
“You know that he is seriously floating that,” Prozinski said. “he would do it if he could get away with it.”
Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have said in recent days that the election will be held Nov. 3 as planned. Prozinski said while Republicans are standing up to Trump over these claims, the public is responsible for making sure the election happens and is fair in November.
“That’s good that (Republicans) didn’t roll over right away and say Trump can do whatever he wants because we want to get reelected, but we are lost if we are going to place our faith in the Republican party or politicians in general to defend this election and make sure it happens,” Prozinski said.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for presidential elections, but Prozinski said she is not reassured.
“That’s false comfort,” Prozinski said. “Obviously (Trump is) gonna do what he can get away with, whether it’s legal or not.”
Ann Arbor resident Joshua Jacobson, organizer for the progressive organization Ann Arbor Beyond Bernie, set up a “Save USPS” table at the protest. He distributed premade postcards for attendees to send to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., to demand United States Postal Service funding.
The budget deficit USPS faced before the pandemic, Jacobson told The Daily, has become more dire with less mail and revenue. Jacobson said underfunding could diminish the trust in the postal service to help conduct a potentially largely vote-by-mail election.
“With what we’ve been seeing with mail being delayed because of budget cuts and workers not being allowed to take overtime, there’s a chance that mailing your ballot in may not allow it to get in in time to actually be counted,” Jacobson said. “So I think that focusing on saving the United States Post Office is kind of critical to being able to save our election, especially considering we’re in a pandemic.”
Prozinski said Trump’s attacks on USPS could cause chaos in the November election.
“He is on the one hand defunding the post office, and on the other hand, casting doubt on the legitimacy of vote by mail,” Prozinski said.
Cindy Luiz, a member of Refuse Fascism, commented on Trump’s repeated refusals to say he will accept the election’s results.
“He doubled down on his declaration that no matter what the outcome is, he’s gonna see that the election is invalid, especially if he doesn’t win and doesn’t win decisively,” Luis said. “It’s going to have been rigged. It’s going to be invalidated and he’s not going to accept it.”
Speakers also criticized the Trump administration’s move to send federal troops into cities with large protests like Portland, Ore. and threatened to send to Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Mich., under the pretense of reducing violent crime. Luis said the violent crime is bad, and it comes out of desperation and a dog-eat-dog mentality.
“But guess what, the police are not the solution,” Luiz said. “They are not the antidote. They’re part of the problem, they fan it. They make it an excuse for the violence that they carry on against the people … They use military talk and terminology that’s borrowed from Iraq and Afghanistan in announcing the plan, making it clear that (Trump) and those around him see Black people in places like this, including Detroit, as the enemy.”
In the middle of Luiz’s speech, Ann Arbor resident Dan Kotwicki shouted at the protesters from his bike on Liberty Street.
“We live in Ann Arbor and we all agree with this,” Kotwicki said. “The problem is we’ve gotta go to Macomb County and Oakland County.”
Kotwicki told The Daily he realized while knocking doors for the John Kerry and Barack Obama campaigns in Ann Arbor that he was only speaking with other like-minded people.
“This rally’s great, and I believe in everything we’re talking about and saying, but the thing is we’re preaching to our own selves,” Kotwicki said. “That’s an issue.”
In response, Luiz told The Daily Kotwicki didn’t know where they’d been organizing. She also expressed doubts about changing the minds of Trump’s supporters.
“These are diehard Trump people because they agree with his outlook and goals,” Luiz said. “They don’t believe in science, they’re not going to be convinced by facts.”
Kotwicki said he was a “card-carrying member” of the Republican Party before he attended Wayne State University.
“I moved to Detroit, went to Wayne State, and saw how people less fortunate lived,” Kotwicki said. “I saw that I was white and had a bunch more doors open, and that Carnegie 1 research university changed the way I see the world.”
Local activist Ethan Ketner told The Daily he agreed with Kotwicki, but wished he would’ve taken the microphone instead of shouting from his bike.
“What he was saying is correct, absolutely I agree we need to be in every city, every neighborhood, every street, every country, every county,” Ketner said. “We need to be everywhere and he is correct for that. But in order to get there, to do that just that, we have to come together and we need to speak, face to face.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., attended the protest and told The Daily in an interview about the bipartisan discussion in Washington, D.C., against postponing the election.
“On the day that John Lewis was buried, he wrote his last words to America in The New York Times about the importance of our democracy, of hope and (of) being involved,” Dingell said. “The President of the United States talked about postponing our election. That day (Lewis) united Republicans and Democrats when Senate Majority Leader (Mitch) McConnell and (Minority) Leader (Kevin) McCarthy joined Nancy Pelosi in saying never in the history of this country, (not) in the Civil War, World War II or now will we postpone this election.”
Dingell emphasized the importance of paying close attention to these issues as the administration continues to attack the foundations of our democracy.
“This is about the fundamental pillars of our democracy,” Dingell said. “We can’t be on automatic pilot anymore. We have a president that is attacking freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press and due process and the future of our country is at stake.”
Dingell also talked about the importance of voting and defending the USPS.
“It is safe to vote from home,” Dingell said. “I think people should return their absentee ballots and applications for ballots. We have to ensure the integrity of these elections and that they are not compromised. The post office is one of the oldest departments of the United States … (and) we need to protect it, it’s going to protect our votes and we are not going to let anyone screw with that.”
University of Michigan Law School alum Eli Savit, candidate for Washtenaw County prosecutor, also attended the protest and spoke to The Daily about Trump’s threats to move the election.
“Every time Trump tweets and every time he says something about elections, he is trying to undermine the foundation of our democracy,” Savit siad. “He does not want to face the electorate in November, he does not want to abide by the rules that we’ve abided by in this country for for centuries and he thinks he’s above it.”
Savit said events like these are important for the community to show the administration that people stand against such actions.
“That’s scary stuff,” Savit said. “That’s the stuff of dictatorships, that’s the stuff of tyranny and we need to be out there and saying, ‘No, we’re putting our foot in the sand and you can’t just change the rules of a democracy when it suits you.’”
Summer News Editor Sarah Payne can be reached at email@example.com and Summer News Editor Calder Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.