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Preponderance of mail-in votes means early results may show Trump with a substantial lead that he’ll likely lose as absentee ballots are tallied.
The head of a Democratic political data agency is warning that with a record number of Americans expected to vote by mail in November, it is very likely that early election results will appear to show that President Donald Trump has won in a landslide, even if he ultimately loses after all outstanding votes are counted.
Josh Mendelsohn, CEO of Hawkfish—a data analytics agency founded last year by mutli-billionaire former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg to support Democratic candidates—sat down for an interview that aired Monday on “Axios on HBO” in which he predicted “chaos in America” after the polls close on November 3.
“We believe that on election night, we are going to see Donald Trump in a stronger position than [he] actually is,” Mendelsohn said, calling this phenomenon a “red mirage.”
Mendelsohn said he is “sounding the alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump.”
“Twice as many voters intend to vote by mail,” Mendelsohn explained, pointing to surveys showing that 40% of ballots will be cast by mail. Among Democrats that figure rises to 48%, while for Republicans it’s just 23%, although studies have shown there is no evidence that voting by mail favors either major party, or that it results in fraud.
According to a June Pew Research Center survey, conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, around two-thirds of Americans are in favor of “no excuse” early or absentee voting.
“Absentee ballots are harder and slower to count,” added Mendelsohn, who said that swing states including Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia may initially appear to have gone to Trump, but could later break for Biden.
“This isn’t misinformation, it isn’t disinformation or using fear as a tactic,” said Mendelsohn. “There are objective truths in the world today.”
When asked if Americans would accept these truths, Mendelsohn said, “I think that’s the America we wished we lived in.” However, he added that “we’ve got Trump… messaging through tweets and in speeches at rallies this notion that any change from the result on election night… means fraud has entered the equation.”
The president has repeatedly cast aspersions on mail-in voting, while voicing support for absentee voting—apparently unaware that they are the same thing.
“We caught them doing some really bad things,” Trump said of the Democrats—without offering any evidence to support his claim—during his August 24 Republican National Convention speech. “We have to be very careful because they’re trying it again with this whole 80 million mail-in ballots they’re working on, sending them out to people who didn’t ask for them… it’s not fair and it’s not right and it’s not going to be possible to tabulate, in my opinion.”
This isn’t to say that there are not serious concerns about voting by mail, many of them caused by the adminstration’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, which critics say are meant to undermine both the service itself and Americans’ trust in it. Their suspicions were confirmed when Trump admitted last month that his opposition to additional funding for the USPS was meant to make it harder for people to vote.
In response to the administration’s efforts, and to the anticipated avalanche of absentee ballots, the USPS last month sent letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C. warning that it could not guarantee that all mail-in ballots would be counted in time.
On Tuesday, dozens of Democratic, labor, and progressive activist groups joined the Protect The Results coalition, which aims to “mobilize millions of Americans should Donald Trump contest the election results, refuse to concede after losing, or claim victory before all the votes are counted.”
“If there’s one thing the Republican convention taught us, it’s that Donald Trump is prepared to do and say anything if he thinks it will prevent him from losing the election,” Benjamin Jealous, the former national NAACP director who is currently president of People for the American Way, said on behalf of the coalition.
“The only guardrail keeping Trump from driving our democracy over the cliff into an ocean of fascism is We the People on Election Day,” added Working Families Party strategy director Nelini Stamp.
So how can American voters avoid the chaos of a “red mirage”?
“If you want your ballot to count in 2020, you need to request it as early… as you possibly can, and mail it back as fast as you possibly can,” Mendelsohn advised. Another option he suggested: “Take your mask, take your hand sanitizer, and go vote at the ballot box. Get your sticker. You want your vote to be counted.”
First published in Common Dreams. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Brett Wilkins is staff writer for Common Dreams.