Dana Milbank, Washington Post
They tried everything to stop the voters in the US Election 2020.
President Trump and his Republican allies fought against absentee voting despite the raging pandemic.
They sabotaged the U.S. Postal Service so mail-in ballots wouldn’t be returned on time.
Then they filed suit so that late-arriving ballots wouldn’t be counted.
They sued to stop people from returning ballots in a drive-through setting.
They sued to limit the days of early voting.
They sued to disqualify ballots if a signature doesn’t exactly match the one on file from years earlier.
They restricted ballot-drop sites to disadvantage large counties full of Democratic voters.
They purged eligible voters, particularly voters of color, from the rolls, and they imposed ID requirements, restricted voting locations and hours in ways that disproportionately disenfranchise non-Whites.
They fought to keep ex-felons from getting their voting rights restored.
They fought to keep Native Americans on reservations from voting.
They harassed voters returning their ballots by videotaping them.
They encouraged armed militias to patrol polling places.
But, by early indications, it didn’t work. And it’s not going to work — because the voters saw it coming. They saw that Trump was trying to win a second term by preventing a free and fair election, the hallmark of authoritarians everywhere, and the voters defied him by voting like never before.
More than 100 million voted — by mail and in person — before Election Day even began. On Tuesday, voters braved the pandemic (and, in some places, cold and snow) to line up, sometimes for hours, from sea to shining sea: They lined up in Maine and Georgia, in Pennsylvania and South Carolina, in Michigan and Minnesota, and even in places such as Maryland and New York, where the outcome was never in doubt. For the most part, voting went smoothly.
The huge turnout cannot be good news for Trump. Even if his supporters voted in massive numbers on Election Day, Trump had never even tried to broaden his support beyond the Fox News set. And, based on the early voting among women and Democrats, Americans who hold Trump in disregard were as motivated to vote as Trump’s fans.
Exit polls showed that the contest was very much a referendum on Trump, and that Trump’s attempt to focus the election on Joe Biden had not made much impact. Morning Consult’s exit polling of early voters found that only 22 percent of people who voted for Trump said they were voting mostly against Biden, while 44 percent of Biden voters said they were primarily voting against Trump.
Trump must have sensed a backlash was coming, for he seemed to abandon the possibility he could win legitimately. Back in March, he warned that if “levels of voting” increased significantly, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
He had made plans to give a victory speech on election night if, in his estimation, he’s “ahead” — before the votes could be tallied. (His press secretary and daughter-in-law both went further, on Tuesday foretelling a Trump “landslide.”)
Trump signaled well before Election Day that he intended to file lawsuits to challenge the results — something one rarely does when anticipating victory. “We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election is over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” he said. His campaign had indicated it would go ballot by ballot trying to disqualify votes.
Trump also complained about suspect results even before there were any results. “I’m very concerned about Pennsylvania,” he said Monday night. “Philadelphia is known for bad things happening with voting. . . . Bad things will happen, and bad things lead to other type things.”
Clearly, Trump’s supporters embrace him unconditionally. (Sixty-three percent of Trump voters said it is “very important” that their candidate have a “strong moral compass.) But Fox News viewers alone don’t a popular majority make. Forecasts pointed to turnout of 160 million — which would be the highest voter turnout rate in 120 years. That would deliver a verdict able to withstand Trump’s voter suppression.
Team Trump’s efforts continued to impede voters to the end. Courts had ordered the Postal Service to reverse mail-delivery slowdowns caused by the Trump megadonor running the Postal Service, but on Election Day the Postal Service reported a fifth consecutive day of slowing delivery, falling below 90 percent on-time (from 95 percent before the sabotage). A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Postal Service to sweep facilities for “held up” ballots after the Postal Service said 300,000 ballots it received had no scans showing they were delivered.
Now it’s up to the states to count all the votes and to declare a winner — whether Trump likes it or not. Biden, visiting Pennsylvania Tuesday, noted his unanimous win — 5-0 — in tiny Dixville Notch, N.H., the first spot in the nation to release its tally. “Based on Trump’s notion, I’m going to declare victory tonight,” Biden said.
He was joking. One candidate, at least, knows that’s not how this thing works.