A prominent voting rights advocate on Sunday called on state and federal lawmakers to take action in order to handle what is expected to be a record-breaking surge in voting by mail as Americans head to the polls in November in the midst of a pandemic that is not likely to let up before the general election.
“States need to immediately start changing the rules,” said Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in an appearance on CBS News‘s “Face the Nation” on Sunday morning.
Gupta said that the experiences of states like Georgia and Wisconsin that grappled with primary elections should serve as a “wake-up call” for the country as the election draws closer, and suggested changing rules around mail-in ballots to allow voters to have flexibility in casting their ballots.
“We need expanded vote by mail with things like prepaid postage stamps,” said Gupta. “You’ve seen and heard about the attacks on the U.S. Postal Service that are causing delays. Therefore, it’s really important that states change the rules to allow ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day to be counted. It’s really important also that people apply for their absentee ballots and vote early so as not to overwhelm the system.”
As Common Dreams reported, delays in the mail in recent weeks are the result of the postal service’s takeover by Louis DeJoy, an ally of President Donald Trump, in July. DeJoy’s month in charge of the organization has led to delays in mail as overtime has been cut, generating concerns over the agency’s ability to handle an increase in Americans casting their ballots by mail.
The agency told a skeptical Greg Sargent at the Washington Post that the delays were not expected to be a long-running issue:
A spokesperson for the USPS is vowing that the changes are temporary and are not intended to delay the transmission of mailed ballots. But delays could nonetheless end up having a massive disenfranchising effect whatever the USPS’s motives, due to the precise confluence of factors coming together right now.
What’s more, USPS officials can plead innocence all they want, but Trump himself is banking on these delays to save his reelection hopes.
In her appearance on “Face the Nation,” Gupta said that Americans should be prepared for results to come in slowly due to the realities of a vote-by-mail system.
“Look, we’re in an unprecedented time,” she said. “We may not—we’re not going to be able to call the election, the media won’t be able to call the election on the night of November 3 if we actually want these absentee ballots to be counted.”
“People will be voting in droves, tens of percentage points higher by mail than before,” said Gupta. “We want to make sure all of the ballots are actually counted.”
Watch Gupta’s full comments: