Trump coup plan exposed: Declare victory before votes are counted
President Donald Trump raises his fist as he yells to supporters after speaking during a rally Oct. 27, 2020, in West Salem, Wis. Trump's plan to declare victory on Election Night before all the votes are counted was exposed this weekend. | Evan Vucci / AP

PROTECT THE RESULTS – Click here for details on actions in your area to demand every vote is counted.

In a move that fits perfectly with the voter suppression and election-stealing plots the Republican Party has perpetrated so far in 2020, it was revealed Sunday that President Donald Trump plans to declare victory on Election Night before all the votes are even counted. As reported by Axios correspondent Jonathan Swan, Trump has apparently been discussing the plot with his inner circle for weeks.

Trump’s claim of a re-election win is aimed at mobilizing right-wing demonstrations with charges that the Democrats are using mail-in votes to cheat. Trump backers—among whom are legions of armed right-wing extremists and white supremacists—would be directed to protest at counting locations and create chaos in the streets to support GOP legal challenges. It would be a repeat of the George W. Bush campaign’s strategy in Florida in 2000, which sent GOP activists to intimidate ballot counters while Republican lawyers worked the courts. This time, there could be several Floridas, as many states could see very close margins, especially linchpin battlegrounds like Pennsylvania.

More than 94 million people have already voted. The avalanche of mail-in ballots is expected to slow the count in several states, a situation Trump hopes to take advantage of. Here, workers with the Philadelphia City Commissioners office sort election materials for at the city’s mail-in ballot sorting and counting center, Oct. 26, 2020. | Matt Slocum / AP

After the revelation of his coup plan this weekend, Trump denied it but tried to again undermine the legitimacy of counting every vote. He told reporters Sunday that only votes counted before midnight on Tuesday should be considered valid. “I think it’s terrible that we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election…. We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as the election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.”

Trump has been stoking anger among his base for months with false claims that all the opinion polls predicting his impending overthrow are “fake news,” and that the only way he could lose the election is if it is “rigged.” He has primed them for immediate action on Election Night once he sends out the call.

The premature declaration of a GOP White House victory would try to take advantage of the expected “red mirage” that could give the appearance of a substantial Trump margin early on Tuesday evening. Trump voters will likely cast their ballots overwhelmingly in person on Election Day, having believed the president’s lie that mail-in voting is full of fraud. These in-person votes will be counted quickly on Election Night, possibly giving Trump an early lead in the count for several key states.

Democratic votes, however, will probably be heavily concentrated among the mail-in, absentee, and early ballots—all of which typically take longer to count. Mail-in ballots have to be removed from envelopes, checked for accuracy, and verified before they can be added to the tally. In some states, this process cannot even begin until Election Day—meaning Democratic votes might show up slower than Republican ones. Some states, like Ohio and Florida, say they will strive to have all their votes counted on Election Night, while others could take a few days.

Counting may be slowed even more due to the massive and historic turnout in the 2020 election. As of Monday morning, over 94 million people had already cast a ballot, more than two-thirds of the 2016 total. Pre-empting the count of what is expected to be an avalanche of anti-Trump votes is the main motivation of the Trump early victory declaration scheme.

Roadblocks—on the roads and in the courts

The GOP’s election intimidation army was already mobilized in Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia this weekend.

On Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin Friday, a caravan of dozens of vehicles flying Trump flags surrounded a Biden campaign bus and tried to run it off the road. The ambush forced the cancellation of two Democratic voter events. The FBI is investigating.

On Sunday, a similar Trump brigade occupied the Mario Cuomo Bridge, suddenly blocking traffic on one of the busiest highways in the heavily Democratic New York City metro area. Local State Sen. David Carlucci called the action “aggressive, dangerous, and reckless.” They did the same on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey in South Amboy.

In Rome, Georgia, where Trump held a rally on Sunday, Democratic Party officials canceled a planned in-person event at the last minute and held a virtual news conference instead because of a “large militia presence” in town. The arrival of many heavily armed Trump supporters gave officials “reason to believe that there might be people looking for trouble today,” according to City Commissioner Wendy Davis. She said Trump “seems to be pouring fuel on the fire of fear and hatred.”

Trump’s voter intimidation machine may have been making moves, but his plan for an electoral coup encountered many roadblocks of its own over the weekend. While his suburban storm troopers were running the Biden bus off the road, GOP lawyers were trying to get 127,000 ballots thrown out in Harris County, which includes Houston and is heavily Democratic, on the baseless claim that voters should not be allowed to drop off their ballots at drive-through boxes.

The Texas Supreme Court shot down the Republicans’ frivolous lawsuit, but they are escalating it to Federal court, with a hearing expected on Monday. Responding to the ridiculousness of the GOP’s suit, Harris County’s lawyer, Susan Hays, called it voter suppression. “It’s nuts,” she said. “Votes should count.”

Although it came weeks late, another court took action to try to mitigate some of the damage done by Trump’s postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who sabotaged the U.S. Postal Service in an attempt to slow down delivery of mail-in and absentee ballots. Throughout summer and into the fall, DeJoy was ripping up mailboxes in Black, Latino, and working-class neighborhoods, destroying mail sorting machines, and hindering postal workers’ ability to get election-related mail delivered on time.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a ruling Sunday ordering the USPS to reinforce its “special delivery procedures,” and use its Express Mail Network—the fastest delivery service—to ensure it “delivers every ballot possible by the cutoff time on Election Day.” The order requires post office managers to take “extraordinary measures” to clear and process every ballot on the same day or no later than the next morning from now through Nov. 7. It also requires every ballot envelope to be clearly postmarked.

Count every vote, protect the results

A massive landslide vote against Trump on Election Day is necessary to widen the margins, help solidify a Biden hold on the Electoral College, and short-circuit Trump’s planned electoral coup. The bigger the loss for Trump in the people’s vote, the harder it will be for him to bulldoze the ballot-counting and mobilize his base to harass polling places. GOP lawyers’ efforts to use the courts to steal the election—up to and including the Republican-dominated Supreme Court—will be hampered if the anti-Trump vote is overwhelming.

That is why maximizing turnout in these last moments of the 2020 election is the order of the day. It’s too late to mail outstanding ballots—either drive them to a drop-off location or show up in person to vote. If voting in person on Election Day, show up early and be prepared for long lines. Safety measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic have slowed the process, and in many places Republican voter suppression efforts have further limited the number of polling places.

A broad coalition of democratic and people’s organizations is already preparing to ensure every vote is counted and that the results are protected. The Protect the Results website provides details on local actions from now through Election Day and beyond to stop a coup. Check out what’s happening in your area, get your PPE together, and plan to hit the streets when needed.

A national electoral uprising has pushed Trump to the brink of defeat. The movement must turn out every vote possible in these last remaining hours and then immediately pivot tomorrow night toward protecting democracy and ensuring that every vote is counted—no matter how long it takes.

More on GOP election interference:

> How Trump and Republicans will try to steal the election

> Trump forever? President won’t commit to give up power if he loses

> Coup by court: Republicans prepare legal challenges that echo 2000 fight

> It’s time to listen to Donald Trump


ELECTION 2020: Everything you need to know to vote in your state

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C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left.