In the Mail
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
IN THE MAIL: As President Trump continues to rant without evidence about the integrity of the nation’s elections in general and mailed ballots in particular, Washington seamlessly completed another primary entirely by mail. As a barometer of the mood of voters in Western Washington moving into the fall, the results are not promising for the president or his party.
The overinflated governor’s race produced a blowout, with the surfeit of individual candidates failing to secure more than a scattering of support across the state. Stacking the total of all of it as votes against Inslee, the incumbent governor (collecting 50 percent in the primary) still appears solid going into the fall. By the strength of his standing against so many opponents across so many divides, a Big Blue Wave appears to be standing offshore, ready to rush in in November.
Outcomes in the 40th Legislative District are unsurprising, with Democrats commanding double-digit leads over Republican challengers.
Results in the 42nd District appear more competitive, with conservative candidates holding a lead in early returns—yet not so commanding a lead as in past election cycles.
“This is a strong night for Democrats in Washington, and history tells us that the primary election night is the high water mark for Republicans,” 40th District Representative Alex Ramel said. “There are many ballots left to count, but Democratic challengers are competitive in a dozen districts that just two years ago were out of reach.
“Voters are making it clear that they want a careful, science-based approach to protecting public health. They want us to solve the budget crisis without deep cuts and austerity, and they want us to respond to calls for racial justice with systemic change,” Ramel said.
For many political junkies, though, the race to watch is the Second Congressional District—among the most progressive districts in Washington. The question, as always—is there enough strength in that progressive cohort to mount a successful challenge from the left against centrist Democrat Rick Larsen, or would that effort again be dashed by the state’s aggressive top-two primary?
The math was promising in CD2, with Republicans splitting up their votes among six candidates while Democrats spilt their votes among two—six split 30 percent of the whole, while two split 70 percent.
Alas, the math once again appears elusive in initial returns, with progressive Jason Call appearing to fall shy of the votes needed to challenge Larsen in the fall.
Preliminary returns indicate another cycle of robust voter participation—a feature expected when the barriers to voting are reduced through easier, same-day voter registration and postage-paid ballots. Since these changes were approved by the Legislature in 2019, turnout in local elections has improved markedly.
Average turnout around the state could approach 60 percent; and that means overall participation in November could perhaps reach record territory.
Elections in Washington, one of the few states that accepts ballots almost entirely through mail, take on an added national significance during the COVID pandemic: The state just held one of the safest elections in the country.
Last week, Trump declared the 2020 election “will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country.” Mail-in ballots, he said, could be stolen from carriers, counterfeited or forged by either forces inside the United States or by “foreign powers.” Incomprehensibly and inanely, the same remarks the president praised absentee balloting—another form of voting done entirely through mail.
His remarks are corrosive to the very concept of holding free and fair and orderly elections—ever a moment of optimism for our battered democracy.
Trump’s comments drew rebuke from Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, who told NPR, “I think it really shatters peoples’ confidence in the process. We need to make sure we’re inspiring confidence in the public that this is a fair election. And the ay you do that is balancing access and security.”
“When someone makes a really robust claim about fraudulent activity, we can show all the security measures,” Wyman said.”If someone said there’s rampant voter suppression, we can show all of the things we did to make the election accessible.”
Wyman’s remarks were supported by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat who supported the Republican’s assurance of the integrity of Washington’s vote-by-mail system.
“President Trump is simply wrong about mail-in voting,” Ferguson said. “Washington state conducts elections entirely by mail, and as Secretary of State Kim Wyman has made clear, Washington has never experienced ‘rampant’ voter fraud.
“Despite clear evidence that vote-by-mail is effective and secure, President Trump continues to claim that mail-in voting will lead to a fraudulent election. His attorney general, William Barr, echoed the president in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, saying he thinks ‘there is a high risk’ mail-in voting will lead to ‘massive voter fraud.’
“Let me be clear,” Ferguson said, “There is no data to support this baseless claim. If the president uses it as an excuse to try to illegally delay the election, we’ll see him in court.”
The type of voter fraud the administration professes to be concerned about does not exist; rather, it has been used to justify policies that make it more difficult, and in too many cases, outright prevent, individuals from exercising their right to vote. The impact of these policies is inherently unequal, and disproportionately borne by communities of color.
Washington’s elections are a model for the nation. We should celebrate them, express pride at how well they work, duplicate them across the country, and not call as fraudulent the opinion of millions of Americans who desperately want this president’s reign to end.