The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Despite Trump’s efforts, democracy is flourishing

A voter places his ballot inside a drop box in Seattle on Wednesday. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

President Trump has politicized the Justice Department and the military, usurped Congress’s power of the purse and violated his oath of office in attempting to extort an ally to manufacture dirt on his political opponent. Trump is trying to destroy the legitimacy of our elections. Yet democracy is hardly on life support; in fact, it is flourishing before our eyes.

As of this writing, more than 75 million Americans have voted early. And in both red and blue states, voting is proceeding in an orderly fashion in the middle of a pandemic.

Deep-red Tennessee is struggling with a pandemic surge. Nevertheless, “State and local officials are ramping up COVID-19 safety measures statewide as the Nov. 3 election draws near,” the Tennessean reports. “Tennessee counties also now have the option to provide in-person voting for residents with COVID-19 or for those showing symptoms. With Tennessee reporting thousands of new cases each week, this measure will accommodate voters who missed the deadline for mail-in or absentee voting or could not make it to early voting sites.”

In Georgia, where the memories of voter suppression in 2018 are still vivid, ABC’s Atlanta affiliate reports, “Early voting numbers are shattering records all across the state of Georgia. More than 3.5 million people have either voted early or by absentee ballot, almost doubling the previous record.” We also learn:

“Everything that has been verified, signatures verified, come over here. It’s run through the cutters. These machines cut open the ballot and then they’re separated over here and then we scan them in the back of the room,” said Richard Barron, the Fulton County elections supervisor. “And those ballots will then be tabulated on election night.”

In defense of our elections, nonpartisan private groups such as the National Task Force on Election Crises, Protect Democracy, the Voter Protection Program, Democracy Docket and the Center for Election Innovation & Research are working on multiple fronts — educating news networks about ballot-counting procedures; fighting disinformation to engaging state officials to thwart voter intimidation; funding election mechanics; litigating against Republican officials trying to make voting harder; rooting out voter database errors and anomalies; and working with social media platforms to devise Election Day anti-disinformation strategies.

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This is not to say that Trump is not trying to create chaos or that Trump-appointed judges have become champions of voting rights or that Republican legislatures and governors aren’t trying to impose onerous requirements and restrictions on voting. (In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott successfully limited drop boxes to one per county, even in Harris County, where more than 4 million Americans live. Presumably, many of them would like to vote early without entrusting their ballots to the U.S. Postal Service, which Trump attempted to sabotage.) It does, however, mean that citizens are not leaving elections up to officials and politicians. The enthusiasm for voting is sky-high, and the full-court press to stop premature claims of victory and phony claims of fraud from circulating is intense.

The number of hang-ups so far is minuscule and attributable to innocent error. And even in states where Republicans are making it harder to vote, early voting is at historic levels. In Texas, for example, the one-drop-box rule has not slowed down Travis County voters. The Austin-based Statesman reports: “Travis County on Wednesday collected more than 485,000 in-person and mail-in ballots since early voting began Oct. 13 — surpassing the total number of votes in 2016 — and two days of early voting remain.”

If networks act with particular caution on Nov. 3 and beyond to provide detailed explanations for why voting is slow or might shift dramatically once absentee ballots get counted, you can thank private organizations and state and local officials of both parties who act in good faith. If there is less voter disinformation on social media than you feared, thank these same actors. And if state legislators rebuff efforts to claim the popular vote is not valid and should not be respected, it will not have been because of sheer luck. And if Justice Department employees refuse to participate in shenanigans, thank scores of ex-Justice Department officials and attorneys for prevailing on them to do their part.

The effort to defend and turn out the vote can swamp efforts to suppress and delegitimize the election. All it takes is tens of millions of voters, hundreds of millions of dollars, scores of lawyers and thousands of Americans working around the clock to protect the vote. Good thing we have all of the above this year.

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. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/The Washington Post)

Read more:

Dana Milbank: Republicans’ only way to win is to stop people from voting

Greg Sargent: Explosive early voting is already transforming our politics

The Post’s View: Election Day will feel different this year. Having the right expectations means rejecting Trump’s lies.

Jennifer Rubin: How early voting deters GOP voter suppression

Greg Sargent: Surprise! Huge early vote bodes well for avoiding electoral disaster.

Gary Abernathy: Trump must accept the election results if he loses. Will his opponents do the same if he wins?