Column: Don’t pay any attention to Trump. Voting by mail in California is safe, secure and reliable

A clerk sorts mail-in ballots at the Los Angeles County Registrar's office in Norwalk.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

President Trump probably would prefer that our mail ballots be delivered by ox cart. Or carrier pigeons flying through flocks of raptors.

Unless we voted for him. Then he’d dispatch the military to “harvest” the ballots.

Hey, it’s not that far-fetched. After all, this is the president who tried to withhold disaster relief money from Northern California wildfire victims because the state opposed him politically, according to Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama was kind to Trump in her Democratic Convention speech when she merely said he “has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job. But he is clearly in over his head.”


She didn’t get into Trump’s meanness. And he’s perfectly up to the job of doing whatever it takes to avoid being tossed from the Oval Office, including sabotaging the Postal Service so it can’t deliver mail ballots.

Without mentioning Trump by name, Obama did assert that “right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. ... They’re sending people out to intimidate voters and they’re lying about the security of our ballots.”

Only public and political pressure forced Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to postpone further cutbacks in the Postal Service until after Nov. 3 to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”

“I don’t, frankly, trust the postmaster general,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters in San Francisco. “If he’s sincere about it, it means the bully has backed off.”

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra announced he’ll join several other state attorneys general in suing the Trump administration over the Postal Service cutbacks.

“No Americans should fear their vote won’t count simply because Donald Trump fears a free and fair election,” Becerra said in a statement.


OK, there’s a lot of politics in all those Democratic assertions, but they are based on Trump’s own self-incrimination.

Trump rants about alleged massive voter fraud in mail voting when studies have shown it is very rare, if it exists at all. The hypocrite is a mail voter himself at his Florida golf resort.

Trump’s true motive was voiced on “Fox and Friends” in April when he said that if the GOP agreed to widespread mail voting, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Gavin Newsom’s potential route to the White House has been abruptly blocked by Kamala Harris’ ascent to the Democratic vice presidential slot.

Aug. 17, 2020

In a recent Fox News interview, Trump said he opposed pumping $25 billion into the struggling Postal Service — as requested by Democrats and the service’s Board of Governors — because the money would be used to handle the expected deluge of mail ballots.

“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of those millions and millions of ballots,” the president said. “If they don’t get [the money], that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”

California is pretty close to already having universal mail voting. It gets more popular every election. In the March primary, 72% of our ballots were cast by mail.


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered every active registered voter to be sent a mail ballot. Many voters will fear it’s too dangerous to show up at crowded polling places on election day.

“Voters should be able to cast their ballots in the safest way possible,” Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla told me. “The safest bet is to vote by mail. You can vote in the comfort and safety of your own home.

“It’s safe, convenient and voting by mail is absolutely secure.”

Well, with roughly 21 million ballots being mailed out, what’s to prevent a few hundred thousand from drifting into unintended hands and misused? What happens when the voter no longer lives at that address?

The ballot is returned to the county voter registrar, Padilla says. It’s not forwarded.

Can’t anyone grab an unmarked ballot off a kitchen table, fill in the boxes and mail it in? Sure, but the voter has to sign the envelope and the signature is routinely doublechecked against one on file. Yes, every signature is checked, Padilla insists. It’s the law.

One of the newest Democratic strategies is so-called ballot harvesting. It was a huge success for Democrats in 2018. A voter — often elderly and frail — can hand over a ballot to someone else to deliver to an official drop box or polling place.

But what if the harvester feels it isn’t a politically friendly ballot and tosses it in the trash?


“No voter should hand over a ballot to anyone he or she doesn’t trust or doesn’t know,” says Fresno County voter registrar Brandi Orth, president of the California Assn. of Clerks and Elections Officials. “That’s just basic.”

A fear for November is that an avalanche of mail ballots near election day will overwhelm the troubled Postal Service and the envelopes won’t be postmarked in time to be counted. They need to be postmarked by Nov. 3.

Don’t wait until election day to mail it, Orth advises.

“That’s dangerous. The Post Office is putting out the message to send back ballots no later than a week before the election.”

That shouldn’t be hard. There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t already know how they’ll vote. For most Californians, it won’t be for the incumbent who wants to deny them mail ballots.