In the early days of my involvement in politics I worked on many campaigns at Democratic headquarters in Buffalo. My main tasks were usually researching issues and writing news releases, but I also did a great deal of envelope labeling and stuffing and telephoning. One of the things that Joe Crangle’s operations excelled in was preparation for election mailings and voter contact.
Not too many people in Erie County today can remember when the county, by registration, was a Republican county. The shift began in the 1960’s. It was a lot of hard work. The main architect of that switch was Joe Crangle, who served as Democratic Chairman from 1965 through 1988.
Today’s politics are in some ways much different from those days. Data on voter registration is collected and managed electronically. Mail houses produce most campaign mailings. Stuffed envelops gave away years ago to two-sided oversized postcards. Social media ads have taken away a great deal of money previously used for TV ads. Radio ads have almost completely disappeared.
Some of the labor intensive campaign work of days gone by, however, can still come in very handy in 2020. That work is critical this year.
Donald Trump and the Republican Party have pulled out all the stops to suppress voting. They have:
• Through legislation in Republican controlled states made it more difficult to register to vote by requiring notarized signatures (sometimes two notarizations) for new voters
• Reduced the number of days and/or hours of early voting
• Imposed what is in essence a poll tax on potential voters who served time in prison but had their right to vote restored by voter referendum in Florida
• Removed registered voters from the rolls for questionable reasons like signatures not matching exactly, a technique that the then Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp parlayed into a winning campaign for the governorship
Trump’s efforts to challenge mail-in/absentee voting (except in Florida where the perfect election system is the envy of the country and old guys like him don’t want to vote in person) is nothing more than a smokescreen to deflect attention from COVID-19 and economic issues and to create an excuse for losing. His tactics are those of a politician who knows he is in trouble.
The irony about his mail-in voting attacks is that it appears he is scaring off Republicans about voting absentee. Warning for Republicans: your illustrious leader does not want you to vote by mail. If you are concerned about voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, then being the caring person he is, he will understand.
Examples of voting fraud are practically nonexistent. There was a case that involved “vote harvesting” by a Republican operative in North Carolina a few years ago. Locally there have been two incidents involving Republicans who voted where they did not live.
It should be noted that among the states that had more than 80 percent of their votes cast absentee in this year’s primaries are the reddest of red states such as Alaska, Wyoming, Kansas, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Arizona and Nebraska.
Some of the Republican tactics cannot be easily and quickly reversed. But there is also an antidote for much of their antics.
To make election 2020 decisive the Democratic Party needs to exercise the type of aggressive campaigning that has served it well in past elections in every manner that can be carried out during a pandemic. The party also needs a small army of attorneys, strategically deployed, to prevent and fight voting suppression activities.
Donald Trump’s words and actions have made no effort to expand his base, even as there are signs of some small slippage of that base among seniors and white non-college educated individuals, particularly women. His whole campaign is dependent on turning out rather than expanding that base, but they aren’t making as many old, non-college educated white guys as they used to.
Democrats will need to focus on turnout too. 2020 has produced an incredible coming together of folks who are not always allies, but who realize that working together to get rid of Trump/elect Joe Biden (take your pick) is essential to the future of this country. The recently announced advertising activity of Bernie Sanders’ supporters is a great example of such efforts.
Much of the work of registering new voters and getting them to vote falls on the party organizations. But individual voters can do their part. If you or your friends and family are not registered, you still have until October 9 to register in New York State. Here is link for registering to vote.
If you can do so, take advantage of early voting or vote in person on Election Day. If there are delays in counting absentee ballots then the numbers from in-person voting which will get reported publicly on Election night will help demonstrate the “blue wave.” Here is a link to early voting dates, times and locations in Erie County for 2020. The Niagara County Board of Elections has not yet posted their early voting locations or schedule for the general election.
You can use COVID-19 as an explanation for a request to vote absentee. Here is a link to request an absentee ballot.
So as the old political expression goes, “vote early, vote …” Nothing less than the fate of the country and the world depends on it.