Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Election reflections on mail-in voting | Roegner

Even though all the election results showed him losing, President Donald Trump has said “the only way I lose is if the election is rigged” and suggested fraud of mail-in ballots was the culprit.

However, his Homeland Security Chief Chris Krebs said 2020 was the most secure election in U.S. history, and Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr said he had not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.

The years in which presidents are up for re-election always see a good turnout of voters because the public provides a referendum on the incumbent. Even though President-elect Joe Biden won the popular vote (81 million to 74 million) and all 50 states have certified their elections (and have thrown out Trump’s legal challenges), the current president has continued to target systems similar to our all-mail voting in his attempt to overturn Biden’s win.

Trump has now been joined by Loren Culp, who lost to Jay Inslee in our state’s race for governor. The longer Trump and Culp try to overturn the public’s will, the more dangerous it becomes to our democracy. Voters take their right to vote seriously and have their own idea about who should win. Most of them want the results decided by popular vote.

Trump alienated significant portions of the electorate with his lack of timely action or any show of compassion on COVID-19. His views on veterans, women and his wink at white supremacy groups have undermined possible support from people of color. Trump could have fared better with our state’s voters had he made an effort to understand why people prefer to mail in their vote, paricularly in a pandemic, as 74% say they are afraid to go out to a restaurant or go shopping.

Even though Trump and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman are both Republicans , Trump lost and Wyman won a third term, making her one of the few statewide elected Republicans on the West Coast. Wyman has been strong supporter of vote by mail, which has been in place for many years in Washington state.

Trump also made an assumption that people of color prefer mail-in ballots and white people preferred to go to the polls, but with the pandemic all around us, and watching television coverage of people voting in other states who stood in line for several hours and too close to each other, Trump was wrong. He also didn’t consider how many people in his base lived in rural areas where it would be more convenient to vote by mail.

We have 4,612,018 voters in Washington state, and vote they did. Not only was Biden an easy winner, but the turnout in Washington of 4.1 million voters was an all-time high, and at 84.1 %, just missed the record of 84.6% set in 2008.

We have 39 counties, and 32 had a turnout above 80%. Trump needed much higher numbers in Eastern Washington — Yakima and Adams counties were at 75% — to offset Western Washington. San Juan County, with only 14,642 voters, had the highest percentage of voter turnout with 91%.

After-the-fact lawsuits that sought to throw out many mail ballots got nowhere. And then Texas asked to have elections in four battleground states invalidated. Even when joined by 17 other states providing political pressure on his expected ace in the hole, the United States Supreme Court (where he had appointed three members), the court declined to hear the case. Each state controls its own election. How would we feel if Idaho wanted to disenfranchise our voters by throwing our results out?

I remember working with Wyman many years ago, as we held similar positions in county government. The goal was always to make it easy for the voters to vote, but build in procedures to catch people who try and vote twice.

Wyman is a supporter of mail ballots, but the key has always been the paper ballot backup that could be counted if a recount was needed. And since Russia’s involvement in our 2016 election has been confirmed, just relying on the computer could have led to hacking had there not been a paper backup. Wyman’s office knew about Russia, and she was not shy about asking for help. She received it from Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Guard.

Our state came through the Trump years with few scars, thanks to voters following the rules as well as hard-working public staff establishing a good system of check and balances. And Wyman won in a Democratic state where Trump didn’t.

Trump may also be courting a disaster in Georgia where control of the U.S. Senate may be decided. He has scared many Republicans into believing the results could be suspect when he should have been concentrating on the vaccine and the number of people dying from COVID-19.

Our nation is more divided than ever and Biden will need the Republican senators to hold Trump accountable and demonstrate the statesmanship they showed with Richard Nixon — and put the nation above Trump if the country is to be united. If Biden is successful, we may save our democracy. If not, it is fragile enough to lose.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.


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