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Wed Oct 28, 2020, 05:50 PM

Election Day will feel different. Having the right expectations means rejecting Trump's lies.

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

Opinion by Editorial Board

ELECTION DAY this year is going to feel different. Many Americans will have to weigh whether voting is worth risking infection with the coronavirus, perhaps because their absentee ballot did not arrive fast enough, or they worry it would not get back in time to count, or they were denied the option of voting by mail in the first place. For this, they can thank Republicans in states such as Texas and Wisconsin who maintained arbitrary limits on absentee ballots, because depressing the vote, rather than persuading voters, is now a key GOP campaign strategy.

But Republicans did not succeed in suppressing mail-in voting everywhere, and high demand for a safe alternative to in-person Election Day voting means that a massive number of Americans will have voted by mail, or at least attempted to do so. The result of so many people shifting the way they vote will be an Election Day that may not end with the declaration of a clear winner. Some presidential battleground states will count ballots that arrive a week or more after Nov. 3, as long as they are postmarked on time. This is good: Voters should not have their ballots trashed because the U.S. Postal Service delayed delivering them or because of some other administrative issue. Their votes matter no less than those of Americans who cast ballots in-person.

Yet President Trump likely will deny their legitimacy. Polls and early-voting statistics suggest that Democrats will vote disproportionately by mail this year, so early in-person tallies in some key states might show him doing better than the final count will. Mr. Trump has equated mail-in ballots with fraud, and he has laid the groundwork to claim that any delay in reporting results would be evidence the election was fixed. On Monday, he tweeted, falsely, about “big problems and discrepancies with Mail in Ballots all over the USA,” adding “Must have final total on November 3rd.” If that doesn’t happen, the president’s irresponsible rhetoric could trigger a post-election crisis.

As it is, the unprecedented circumstances could lead overwhelmed election officials to make more honest mistakes. Even in normal presidential election years, irregularities occur: A stack of ballots gets misplaced, then found; voting machines conk out; dead people are discovered to be still registered to vote; ballot-counting technology fails; some people have to fill out provisional ballots.


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