Republicans know their prospects decline as turnout rises in elections. The reason is that the party base of older white voters are more likely to participate in low turnout elections than the Democratic base of minorities and young people. In 1980, political strategist Paul Weyrich, a founder of the modern conservative movement, criticized the “goo goo” syndrome of good government. “They want everybody to vote. I do not want everybody to vote,” he said. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
More recently, Republicans have said restrictions on voting such as photo identification laws helps the party by diminishing the opposition voting. In 2012, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said voter identification, “which is going to allow Governor Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” would be enacted.
In 2013, while talking about the conservative advantage from low turnout, Scott Tranter of the political consulting firm Optimus said, “A lot of us are campaign professionals and we want to do everything we can to help our sides. Sometimes we think that is voter identification, sometimes we think that is longer lines, whatever it may be.”
Ken Emanuelson, a Tea Party leader in Texas, was leading a meeting in 2013 of a group dedicated to turning out Republicans when a black pastor asked him, “What are the Republicans doing to get black people to vote?” Emanuelson responded, “Well, I am going to be real honest with you. The party does not want black people to vote if they are going to vote nine to one for Democrats.”
The imperative of Republicans to limit voting by Democrats has become notably urgent today as the white voter share of the electorate has declined from 76 percent in 2000 to 67 percent in 2018. In response to a push by Democrats for reforms such as same day registration, early voting, and mail voting this year, President Trump said, “The things they had in there were crazy. They had levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
This year, Trump and his allies launched a blatant and relentless voter suppression campaign. They have filed lawsuits across the country to restrict mail voting and the counting of ballots. They have falsely attacked mail voting as rife with fraud and even encouraged intimidators to visit polling places. Officials appointed by Trump installed Republican donor Louis DeJoy to direct the Postal Service.
DeJoy enacted changes that slowed down the mail and imperiled the timely delivery of ballots. These include the dismantling of automatic mail sorting machines, a directive to leave mail behind rather than having late or extra deliveries, and a cutback in overtime. DeJoy claimed that these changes would improve the economy in his agency ridden by deficits. But the Postal Service has been in the red for many years, and DeJoy could have briefly deferred austerity measures until after the election.
Four federal judges have since imposed temporary injunctions on these operational changes, but it is not clear how fully DeJoy has complied. Although delivery times have improved since the court orders, as compared to the period before the ascension of DeJoy, mail delivery remained slowed down until last month.
Citizens cannot change Postal Service policies and practices, but we can take the initiative to ensure the delivery of ballots is faster. The solution is to stop sending mail other than ballots, medicines, and other critical items between now and the election. Communicate by text, email, private couriers, or social media instead. Delay ordering of packages and pause the sending of brochures until after the election.
Republicans and Democrats know that this will be the most momentous election in recent years. We can all contribute to a full and fair vote with the simple option of observing a mail moratorium for a few weeks.
Allan Lichtman is an election forecaster and a distinguished professor of history at American University. He is the author of “The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present.” He tweets @AllanLichtman.