Trump’s attack on mail-in balloting in Pa. is the next step to discrediting the November election | Wednesday Morning Coffee

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 24: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a signing ceremony for H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, with members of his administration and Republican lawmakers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC on April 24th, 2020. The bill includes an additional $321 billion for the Paycheck Protection Programs forgivable loans to cover payroll and other costs for small businesses. Hospitals and other health care providers will receive $75 billion and another $25 billion is allocated for COVID-19 testing. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers

Credit Donald Trump with this much: When he finds a riff, he sticks with it.

For the best part of four years now, despite an utter paucity of evidence, the nation’s 45th *president has claimed that our electoral system is so shot through with widespread voter fraud that the results cannot be trusted.

The opening salvo came in 2016 when Trump claimed that between 3 million and 5 million votes were illegally cast.

The former number, by the way, represents Hillary Clinton’s victorious margin in the popular vote. But we’re sure that was sheer coincidence. In 2018, a specially convened presidential commission found no evidence of any wrongdoing, an outcome that proved more speed bump than unscalable barrier to future fraud claims.

As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump writes, Trump has spent the intervening four years sharpening his arguments, and has now focused his ire on mail-in balloting, claiming that it, too, is ripe for massive fraud, despite evidence that it is, in fact, a safe and reliable way to vote.

“Absentee Ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them,” Trump thundered in a June 28 Tweet. “Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins.”

Trump’s claims about mail-in balloting are “wrong and if used to prevent states from taking the steps needed to ensure public safety during November’s election, they will be deadly wrong. Mail ballot fraud is incredibly rare, and legitimate security concerns can be easily addressed,” the Brennan Center at New York University wrote in an April 10 analysis.

(Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Now that effort, once merely offensive and dangerous, has been weaponized.

On Monday, Trump’s re-election campaign, joined by four Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania, sued the Secretary of State’s Office and the election boards in all 67 counties, seeking to change the way mail-in ballots are sent and counted, the Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, alleges that the current system jeopardized election security by, for example, setting up in-person ballot drop off boxes. Never mind the fact that counties run by Republicans and Democrats alike had utilized such boxes, Caruso reported.

As ever, it’s important to watch what the Trump camp says, as well as what it does.

“To be free and fair, elections must be transparent and verifiable. Yet, Defendants have inexplicably chosen a path that jeopardizes election security and will lead – and has already led – to the disenfranchisement of voters, questions about the accuracy of election results, and ultimately chaos heading into the upcoming November 3, 2020 General Election,” the lawsuit reads, according to The Hill, a publication that covers Congress.

The Department of State, which oversees elections statewide, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 23: Signage at an early voting center on September 23, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota residents can vote in the general election every day until Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

To be sure, the state has plenty of kinks to iron out before November. But based on ancedote and first-hand reporting, while there were problems, there was hardly the chaos seen in Georgia or Wisconsin.

Voters rights advocates in Pennsylvania are already pushing back against the Trump camp’s claims, saying the lawsuit, is “an attempt to undermine the common-sense reforms that Pennsylvania’s elected officials, including Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and all 67 county board of elections members, implemented to ensure that voters are able to exercise their constitutional right to vote without risking their health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The statement, by Scott Seeberg, state director of All Voting is Local, said the Pennsylvania action, along with a GOP-led attack on voter access in “Wisconsin in April are an all-out assault on the rights of voters to safely exercise their rights in the general election. Limiting voters’ access to vote by mail is no way to run a democracy. Pennsylvania’s elected officials are responsible for ensuring that the residents of the Commonwealth are able to vote safely at all times. This is nonnegotiable.”

It’s also proven immensely popular. As the Capital-Star’s Cassie Miller reported last week, mail-in ballots were more popular than in-person voting in more than a third of Pennsylvania counties, including such Democratic strongholds as Allegheny, Bucks, and Montgomery counties, as well as Philadelphia.

Delegitimizing mail-in balloting is the first step toward driving down turnout in a critical battleground state. And if Trump should lose the Keystone State on Election Night, and that’s currently a real possibility, the campaign will seize on mail-in balloting as a way to discredit the state-level results, and with it, the general election results overall if former Veep Joe Biden wins.

The campaign needs to be careful what it wishes for. Along with the Philly ‘burbs, mail-in balloting was also hugely popular in counties Trump carried in 2016, including Luzerne County, which spurred a whole cottage industry of “Where it Went Wrong for Democrats” books.

If Trump succeeds in short-circuiting mail-in balloting in Pennsylvania, he may also prompt his own supporters to stay home, winning a battle, but ultimately losing the war.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Capital-Star Washington Reporter Allison Stevens
 leads our coverage this morning with her in-depth look at how Pennsylvania lawmakers on Capitol Hill are looking for legislative solutions to clean up the damage from PFAS chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other ailments.

landmark criminal justice bill helped 1 million people get jobs and housing last year. But advocates say there’s more to be done. Elizabeth Hardison has the details. Hardison also has what you need to know about a pair of police reform bills headed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

Mirroring the steps taken by western states, a suburban Philadelphia lawmaker is making the case for “conservation corridors” in Pennsylvania, Cassie Miller reports.

U.S. Sen Bob Casey, D-Pa., talked to college students on Tuesday night about the presidential campaign, how they can get involved, and the challenges ahead, Correspondent Nick Field reports.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Philadelphia will keep some virus restrictions in place, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz muses on whether we’re now seeing the death of reason and truth in our public life. And in a slightly less apocalyptic take, the head of a Quaker-run investment fund says Pennsylvania needs to tackle the short- and long-term threats posed by methane emissions. 

Love Park in Philadelphia (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Elsewhere.
Opioid overdoses are on the rise in Philadelphia’s Hispanic community, and racial disparities in healthcare are making the problem worse, the Inquirer reports.
The Trump administration’s Labor Department hasn’t been investigating Pittsburgh workplaces for COVID-19 complaints, Pittsburgh City Paper reports.
The state Senate has passed a bill allowing nine communities to ban fireworks, but some lawmakers want it to extend statewide, PennLive reports.
LancasterOnline explains how virtual summer school will help students who fell behind during lockdown.
In Northampton County, they’re talking about how law enforcement can earn back the trust of the area’s Black residents, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

(Image via Instagram.com)

It’s about to get easier for Pennsylvanians with criminal backgrounds to get professional licensesWHYY-FM reports.
The PA Post explains the debate over the Wolf administration’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes.
Local unemployment in northeastern Pennsylvania tumbled by 2.9 percentage points, the Citizens-Voice reports.
Stateline.org explains why COVID-19 outbreaks in county jails and prisons threatens community health as well.
Democrats are set for a ‘down-ballot blowout’ this fall, NYMag’s Intelligencer reports.

What Goes On.
Nada. The July 4 weekend has already started. The House has two days, July 7 and 8 on the books for next week. The session does not have any days scheduled.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf
 holds a 1:30 p.m. newser at PEMA HQ in suburban Harrisburg to talk about occupational licensing reform.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to longtime Friend O’the BlogEric Heyl, of Pittsburgh, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a song that will forever sound like the summer of 1988. It’s Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark and “Dreaming.”

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
There is no joy in Mudville today. Minor league baseball has called off the 2020 season, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. City Island will be a lot quieter this summer, as will minor league parks around Pennsylvania.

And now you’re up to date.