These women from the Philly ‘burbs have one message for Trump: Leave our healthcare alone

(Kelley Minars/Flickr)

As millions of Pennsylvanians cast mail-in ballots this voting season, Cindy, a voter from Delaware County, says she’s never been more worried in her “voting life … that somehow my vote won’t count.

“I’m worried that there will be corruption, that the ballots won’t be tallied properly, or someone will try to challenge them,” she said

Cindy, who is white, and whose last name was not available, is part of a critically important voting bloc. She’s a woman voter in suburban Philadelphia whose ballot could well end up determining whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump end up winning Pennsylvania in about a week’s time. 

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Cindy was one of several suburban voters who voiced concerns this campaign season during a pair of panel discussions that  the state branch of the AARP held last week. They talked about their concerns about the safety and reliability of mail-in balloting in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. And they called on Trump and Biden to “tell the truth” as they make their closing arguments to voters.

The AARP only identified participants by their first names in its panel discussions. The Capital-Star repeatedly asked the AARP for the full names of all the participants in the panel discussions, and was provided with only some of them.

Joanne, another participant, said the situation with the pandemic “is certainly not getting any better. 

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“It seems to be spreading more quickly now. We don’t have an answer for that. It is scary, especially when I think about the future of Medicare and Social Security,” she said.

Through midday Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health had confirmed 1,407 new cases in all 67 counties, with 8,673 fatalities. In a briefing Monday, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine appealed to Pennsylvanians to work together to contain a fall surge of cases

“We want to hear what you’re thinking about the current political climate and understand the process you’ll be using to determine who to support in the upcoming election,” AARP Pennsylvania President Joanne Grossi said at the start of the first session. “And you’re here for reason – women living in Pennsylvania and suburban communities played a pivotal role in deciding state election results in 2016.” In 2016, Trump won half of the votes cast by white women in Pennsylvania which allowed him a narrow sweep over the state according to exit poll data, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Grossi asked the panelists about the effect of the pandemic on the election. Some panelists pointed out that social media is playing an unprecedented role in this election campaign because of social distancing protocols that limit in-person gatherings. 

The panelists said that the increased usage of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic is a cause of anxiety for them. 

“It is a solution, but it increases the potential for fraud. And the increase of mail-in ballots has fostered a distrust in the validity of the process,” said Deborah Derrickson Kossmann, a resident of Delaware County.

Those concerns came despite the fact that mail-in balloting is safe and reliable and that fraud is almost non-existent.  President Donald Trump has falsely repeated those claims on the stump and did so again during a campaign stop in Allentown on Monday. 

Panelists condemned the ongoing crisis involving the U.S. Postal Service due to operational developments that are expected to cause mail slowdowns ahead of the general election. In September, U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh issued an injunction ordering the USPS to temporarily halt these changes for Pennsylvania’s Eastern District, the Inquirer reported. 

When asked about their thoughts on the candidates, Kossmann said she was disappointed at Trump’s comment regarding the Proud Boys at the first presidential debate held on Sept. 30. He told members of the white supremacist group to “stand by,” the Capital-Star previously reported. 

“I will not vote for someone who is calling out the Proud Boys to stand up for him at this election,” Kossman said. “I want my friends and my family and other people I know to be safe and feel that their views and very existence are valued, whether they are immigrants, whether they’re of a different color than me or a different religion than me.” 

Joanne said that she wants the presidential candidates to develop comprehensive plans to recover from COVID-19 and restart the economy and share them with the public. Other panelists cited leadership qualities, truthfulness, and willingness to collaborate with other sections of the political and justice systems as some of the qualities they were looking out for while deciding who to vote for. 

“So many of my friends are losing jobs,” Joyce  said, calling on the government to be more aggressive about COVID-19 contingency planning. “It’s just heartbreaking. And education. How can people pay for college anymore? What is the government going to do?”

During the second session, panelists explicitly denounced any scale back to the Affordable Care Act. President Trump reiterated his support for a lawsuit headed to the Supreme Court that seeks to strike Obamacare at last week’s presidential debate, NBC News reported.

“This should be a non-issue,” Christine said. “Medicare is not an entitlement. It is something we have paid into. We have earned it and it should not be touched.”

Rjaa Ahmed is a Hearken Election SOS Fellow who is helping the Capital-Star cover the 2020 presidential election. Follow her on Twitter @churail.