It seems like every day the president finds a new way to attack the legitimacy of the upcoming presidential election. In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump refused to accept the results of that year’s election unless he won. But his most recent offense, which is garnering support among the fringe supporters of his reelection campaign, has been to eliminate and invalidate mail-in voting. 

This administration has begun attacks on our postal system to make sure that mail-in votes are delayed, not counted and not even cast in the first place. He is opposing new funding to the United States Postal Service, suing Nevada for expanding access to mail-in ballots, intimidating voters by making the only method of voting in-person — something increasingly dangerous in a pandemic — and discouraging Americans from trusting the validity of their absentee votes. By doing this, Trump has once again set himself up to deny the results of the 2020 election and to use mail-in voting as a way to claim that it was “rigged” if he loses.

Trump went on a Twitter rant regarding the alleged illegitimacy of mail-in voting while the death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 180,000. Beyond his dangerous and unconstitutional proposal of delaying a federal election, and beyond his false claim that absentee voting is somehow more secure than mail-in voting (they’re essentially the same thing), he wants to make voting in our country a life or death choice for millions of Americans based on the misinformation of voting practices. 

Trump rages on in his efforts to stop mail-in voting and at the same time pretends that the pandemic affecting our nation is going away. It is proven that COVID-19 disproportionately affects Black and Latinx communities relative to white communities. This means that while a white man may be able to vote in person without any substantial risk, a Black woman, who may need to take public transport for a greater distance and wait longer in line, will be at a greater health risk. In addition to the racially disproportionate health risk posed by the pandemic, Trump is further disadvantaging people of color in the democratic process through his attacks on mail-in voting, essentially establishing 21st Century Jim Crow laws.

When asked about Trump’s new attack on voting in America, Allayna Hight, a Black LSA freshman and active member of the Multicultural Housing Community on campus, did not hold back. She commented, “Low-income areas with high minority populations tend to have higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, and I’m afraid many minorities may decide not to vote if they can’t do it by mail.” She continued, “Especially because of the recent events surrounding police brutality against Black people, I feel like it’s more important than ever to secure my vote in the election. Donald Trump does not show any support for the Black Lives Matter movement and it scares me to hear him denounce mail-in voting.” 

Though his assault on mail-in voting disproportionally affects Black Americans, this is an issue even white people are having to face. We white Americans live in, and inadvertently support, a system that is set up to favor us and now we are getting a glimpse at what Black individuals lived and continue to live through. We, too, are now being told that our votes do not matter. We, too, are being forced to risk our health to simply participate in this democracy. We must acknowledge that we were privileged over the past two hundred years to be exempt from literacy tests, property ownership requirements, purging of names and even being subjected to violence only for voting. 

Though the voices of support for the Black community from our predecessors were too few and too quiet, we are now given another chance to defend the right to vote and must seize this opportunity. That includes passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 to restate our commitment to racial justice in our electoral process. 

This issue is about whether we will let all Americans vote safely like so many white Americans have in the past or force people to risk their lives just to have their voices heard. Voting is a right that must be protected with the utmost care, clarity and accessibility. What is happening now is a president taking a move from an old and racist playbook to suppress his opposition. America is too great of a nation to once again stay silent as justice and democracy fall apart. 

Nathan La Huis can be reached at ndlahuis@umich.edu.

 

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