Jeff Timmer: Trump’s cult of chaos is undermining your right to vote safely

President Donald Trump rally in Battle Creek, Dec. 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

“If you have a reasonable excuse, just a reasonable excuse, you should be able to vote by mail-in.”

That was President Donald J. Trump during his trip to a Ford Plant Ypsilanti in May. A tour to tout efforts to make America the “King of Ventilators.” 

Mind you, touring the facility without a mask, while simultaneously twisting himself into a rhetorical pretzel to justify his own mail-in voting, and taking shots at several of the women elected to lead this state and protect the sanctity of our elections, all while spreading lies about voter fraud.

I know, I know, he’s only asking for a reasonable excuse to vote by mail, a secure and proven voting method, quit picking on the guy.

Sarcasm aside, it seems to me, having more than 1,000 people dying of COVID-19 per day, and the U.S. becoming the global poster child for how not to handle a pandemic, seems like a pretty damn good excuse for everyone to be allowed to vote by mail in November.

Sadly, just like he did in May, the president continues to saber rattle and spread misinformation to a country that is exhausted or angry or misinformed, and in the case of his most ardent followers, probably all three. As he spews long ago debunked myths about the security of mail-in voting, he’s counting on fear to again bail him out. He’s bringing chaos to the ballot like he has to our political system since that now infamous 2015 escalator ride.

Trump spends most of Ypsilanti Ford facility visit maskless, OKs Midland emergency declaration

It’s what he does. And while I think the grifter’s game will be up, and in historic proportions in November, it doesn’t mean there won’t be a lot of collateral damage, including more lives unnecessarily lost when it serves his politics.

If only there was a mechanism that would allow Michigan voters to participate in the election via mail, never having to leave the safety of their homes to cast their ballot.

Wait, that’s right, there is one.

Michigan voters who overwhelmingly approved Proposal 3 in 2018, granting among other things, the constitutional right to vote absentee with no excuses.

So amid a health crisis that is powering a prolonged economic crisis that most of the rest of the world took action to address, we now find ourselves on the cusp of an electoral crisis. 

Voters across this country are being asked to pick between voting and their health, and it’s going to suppress voting if Congress doesn’t take action. And it’s bound to hit cities and people of color harder, just like COVID-19 death rates.

Benson, election chiefs push for mail-in voting amid COVID-19 crisis, but Trump opposes

Consolidating polling places in Wisconsin’s April 7 primary election reduced turnout in Milwaukee by nearly 9%, with a disproportionate impact on Black voters. Factors such as fear of contracting COVID-19, closing polling sites and long lines all undoubtedly played a role.  

And the same issues in Milwaukee in April will pop up across the country. Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey reportedly needs about 900 election workers for the August primary. With recruiting workers hard enough without a pandemic, you can see the voter suppression coming like a slow train wreck, all due to a failure of leadership in Washington.

Sadly, our leaders at the federal level have had time to act and prepare, but haven’t.

Where have we heard that before?

As with so many things with this presidency and a lapdog U.S. Senate, it’s utterly preventable, but seemingly impossible to achieve. And that’s a problem for anyone who cares about democracy, who believes in the integrity of our elections, and wants everyone to have a voice.

Of course, that’s a less of a problem for people who flout science, and have convinced themselves that trained medical professionals and doctors are somehow participating in a vast deep state conspiracy to dethrone their president. 

Column: We don’t need fear-mongering about mail-in voting. We need the Legislature to make it better.

Or for those self-proclaimed “patriots” who don’t wear a mask because American soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy and died serving this country to protect their freedom to do what they please … even if that means helping to spread a virus that’s killed about 150,000 of their fellow Americans.

I mean, maybe John Stuart Mill had it wrong, our freedom to swing our fist doesn’t end at our neighbor’s nose, no matter how badly we bloody their face. That’s democracy for candy-asses. We can do what we damn well please, it’s America!

I digress. 

That’s exactly whom the president needs to vote in November. And he’s counting on his cult following to trumpet confusion and spread fear and ultimately, show up and vote for him, even if it is eerily reminiscent of drinking the Kool-Aid.

But with all things, he needs an enabler. Enter, the lapdog Trumplican-led U.S. Senate. 

Perhaps not being able to march in Memorial Day or Fourth of July parades waving the Red, White and Blue has been a bit more jarring than expected. 

I’m sure they’ll come around and listen to groups like VoteSafe Michigan who want to accomplish one thing: allow voters of all parties to vote without jeopardizing their health. 

Poll: Americans on board with mask mandates

I’m sure Congress will step up and provide the funding to ensure clerks across the country can accommodate historic voting by mail volumes and expand safe voting options for those who wish to vote in-person. I mean, they’ve been informed.

In June, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified before the U.S. Judiciary House Committee that Michigan needs $40 million to prepare for August and November elections and arm our local clerks with the personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfectants and equipment to count what’s sure to be a flood of absentee ballots.

Providing resources to protect public health. To protect the right to vote. To protect people’s right to vote for them.

That should be one of the easiest decisions an elected member of Congress in the United States of America could make.

But cults don’t work that way.