A few months ago, the reigning fear was that President Trump might be able to exploit delays in the mail service to try to steal the election by pushing for the invalidation of millions of late-arriving mail ballots. Trump himself all but threatened to do this, and with major mail delays setting in because of reforms pushed by the postmaster general, it seemed plausible enough.

But, in a surprise, we’re seeing an enormous outpouring of early voting right now that sets up at least the possibility of averting any serious disasters on and just after Election Day.

And at least to some degree, we may have Trump’s threats to thank for it.

The Post has a new piece that vividly details the extraordinary scope of early voting we’re seeing:

With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, roughly 15 million Americans have already voted in the fall election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation despite barriers erected by the coronavirus pandemic — and setting a trajectory that could result in the majority of voters casting ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history.

Indeed, Michael McDonald, who runs the United States Elections Project, estimates that we could be up to as many as 40 million people having voted by the end of next week.

“This is a completely different election than anything we’ve seen in the past,” McDonald told me. “The numbers are off the charts.” The great majority of early votes have been by mail, McDonald noted.

Much of this early voting is driven by torqued up energy among Democrats, per The Post:

Of the roughly 3.5 million voters who have cast ballots in six states that provide partisan breakdowns, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 2 to 1, according to a Washington Post analysis of data in Florida, Iowa, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Additionally, those who have voted include disproportionate numbers of Black voters and women, according to state data — groups that favor former vice president Joe Biden over President Trump in recent polls.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats are more likely to win, since they could be getting votes that would otherwise have come in later anyway, but it certainly can’t hurt in that regard.

What’s critical is that this makes it less likely that Trump can get away with any of his planned shenanigans.

Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center warns that the president is doing the work of our foreign adversaries by undermining the legitimacy of the U.S. election. (The Washington Post)

For one thing, Trump’s efforts to intimidate Democrats out of voting are failing. The lies about vote-by-mail being fraudulent were in part about getting Democrats to give up on it, in hopes that they’d also refrain from in-person voting amid a pandemic. For another, Trump has repeatedly told his army to watch the polls for fake fraud very carefully — that is, to engage in voter intimidation. Obviously both are failing.

And so many people voting early will ease the late crush that many feared due to enormous expected demand for vote-by-mail. “That’s going to help elections officials,” McDonald told me.

Above all, the more voting happens earlier, the harder it will be for Trump to play corrupt games around late-arriving ballots.

As McDonald told me, in swing states such as Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, elections officials are very likely to be able to count the mail votes quickly, in part because of their vote-counting rules, and in part because so many voters will have gotten in their ballots earlier than expected.

McDonald noted that the quick count of mail ballots in those states — particularly with so many Democrats getting in ballots early for Joe Biden — could help preempt a scenario in which Trump is leading on election night, allowing him to prematurely declare victory.

That’s because we’ll see huge sums of Democratic-heavy mail ballots counted right away, with in-person Election Day voting counted through the night.

“Trump is the one who’s going to be catching up on election night” in states like those, McDonald told me. “It’s not going to be Biden.”

Still, McDonald cautioned that there could still be delays in places such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin because of their counting rules, and Trump could be leading in them on election night. But if Biden wins Arizona or especially Florida (or both) early, that could quickly suggest a Biden win, disarming Trump’s schemes in those other states.

It’s also true that we’ve seen unbearably long lines in places like Georgia, which says something terrible about the state of our advanced democracy.

But the flip side of those enormous delays has been that television screens across the country are filled with imagery of throngs of determined voters, braving long waits to engage in urgently needed civic participation, which surely is inspiring to countless others.

And most of them are Democrats, which also likely sends a strong message to countless fellow Democrats across the country.

As Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg noted, such a “very heavy early Democratic vote” makes it clearer every day that “our voting systems are working as intended, and that people are being able to have their say.”

Now, some will argue that this shows those who warned of Trump’s dastardly deeds were being hysterical. But it shows the opposite: It is in part precisely because so many people sounded loud alarms about his intentions, including with regard to corrupting mail balloting, that such unprecedented numbers are voting early, making his designs less likely to succeed.

There is still plenty of time for things to go badly wrong. But for now, it’s at least possible that this is shaping up as yet another way that Trump’s numerous efforts to corrupt our election are blowing up in his face.

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