Opinion | Avoiding Election Night Chaos

To the Editor:

Re “What Will You Do if Trump Doesn’t Leave?,” by David Brooks (column, Sept. 4):

Mr. Brooks asks important questions, which can be distilled as “Do we still have a functioning constitutional democracy in this country?” If Donald Trump loses but refuses to leave, he can remain only with the connivance of his enablers in the White House, Congress and the courts.

But patriots remain within our institutions. If they stand up and say “No,” Mr. Trump may find himself very alone. Hopefully we will not have to see how that plays out, but if it comes to that, my money is on the people who staff the institutions of our government — and, yes, the military — to stand up (at last) for what they know to be right and stand in the way of a would-be dictator.

I don’t think we will have to take it to the streets as Mr. Brooks suggests, but if that’s what it takes, count me in, too. I think I’ll be in good company.

Richard W. Poeton
Lenox, Mass.

To the Editor:

David Brooks suggests that civic action may be necessary in the days after the election if the mail-in vote turns against President Trump. Much preferable and more effective would be civic action on the day of the election — voting in person.

I would rather spend an hour or two in line at my polling place — with a mask and socially distanced — than days or weeks in the streets standing up for democracy. In 2020 patriotism isn’t just about voting; it is about actually pulling the lever or filling in the circle, and helping others to do so.

With a concerted effort the election actually can be decided that Tuesday night, avoiding the nightmare scenario that we sadly have to worry about.

David Eisen
Cambridge, Mass.

To the Editor:

David Brooks’s headline asks, “What Will You Do if Trump Doesn’t Leave?” There are two obvious answers: initiate legal action or demonstrate in mass street protests. The first is hopeless — Donald Trump is a lifelong master of parrying legal attacks. The second is soul-satisfying but is at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive.

So what can work? I’d suggest a one-word answer: strikes.

Labor strikes are a traditional form of citizen protest. A second form of strike — less traditional, more long-term and harder to organize — would be a tax payment stoppage.

To be effective a strike must have mass participation. Admittedly, engaging in any kind of strike means taking on real costs and risks.

Actively resisting an anti-democratic takeover of the U.S. government is not for the faint of heart. Remember, Mr. Trump has shown no qualms about inviting heavily armed street thugs to support his cause.

Stuart Esten
Burlington, Mass.

To the Editor:

I would march to preserve the Republic with enthusiasm. At 93 I may need some help, but I will be there! Please God it does not come to that!

Anne Hart
Stratford, Conn.

To the Editor:

David Brooks sets out a scenario in which perhaps 40 percent of the ballots could be mail-in, creating confusion on election night. That’s a fine argument for voting early, in person, if you can. That’s what I will be doing. You won’t have to worry about your ballot getting lost or delayed in the mail, or about Election Day chaos at the polls. The lines for early voting are always much shorter, as voting is spaced out over time. And early votes are reported on election night.

Baxter Jones
Atlanta

To the Editor:

OK, what would I do? This is a difficult question. But even before I can begin to digest it, David Brooks refers to the “fringe of the left” as “those who want to overthrow the racist, cisgendered, patriarchal neoliberal oligarchy.”

Really? This is the fringe left? I hardly consider myself, a 63-year-old woman, the fringe left. Yet I do want to live in a civil society. I want racial equity, social justice and the end of white supremacy. I want an America that believes in human dignity and decency, and one where women’s lives and brains have the same value as men’s. And, from my own family experience, I want a nation that accepts that not all children’s gender identity coincides with their physical anatomy.

The fringe left? I don’t think so. I haven’t been to a protest, unless you count the Women’s March. I do my job, love my husband and grown-up children, maintain my garden and believe in God and science.

When did I become the “fringe left”?

Corynn Buckholdt
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

Mr. Brooks, the answer is simple. Just lock him in the White House. And let everyone else out, so the business of government can go on without him.

Jim Nestor
Saratoga, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “‘It’s 8 P.M. on Election Day.’ Experts Share Nightmare Scenarios” (Sunday Review, Sept. 13):

The six “nightmare” election night scenarios presented by your experts have two things in common: In every scenario, not coincidentally, the breakdown of normal process works to the benefit of President Trump, and virtually none of the “solutions” proposed for any of the scenarios have much realistic chance of being put in place. To take one example, $3.6 billion for election administration in a federal coronavirus relief bill is simply wishful thinking, as I’m sure the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, will be happy to confirm.

The reality is we have permitted the degradation and corruption of our voting and vote-counting processes to go too far and too long, beginning with our placid acceptance of the full computerization of those processes nearly two decades ago.

Cassandran warnings that counting votes in the partisan, proprietary, pitch dark of cyberspace would lead inexorably to a breakdown of trust in our electoral process were met with collective shrugs and yawns. Now, like the Trojans on that terrible night, we are about to pay the price.

Jonathan D. Simon
Felton, Calif.
The writer is former executive director of the Election Defense Alliance and the author of “Code Red: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy.”

To the Editor:

Re “The Election Day Nightmare Democrats Dread” (front page, Sept. 3):

Yes, it is obvious that Donald Trump plans to undermine confidence in the election count, by demanding instantaneous results, even if all the votes haven’t been counted. However, a lot of this has been tacitly encouraged by the news media, who spend election nights breathlessly racing to be the first to “call” states for one candidate or another. They then act as though their projections are official results.

Nowhere in the Constitution is a same-day result mandated. It’s tough, but media will have to enter this election soberly, and report official results only when they are complete. It will be difficult to change the “instant election” mind-set, but democracy works for the citizens, not the networks.

Remember Florida in 2000? The braying G.O.P. operatives pounding on doors, trying to intimidate vote counters? Mr. Trump is trying to instigate that scenario on a national scale. Everyone will have to steel themselves to stand for the rule of law, or this could be the end of legitimate elections.

Howard Schmitt
Green Tree, Pa.

To the Editor:

On the evening of Nov. 3, Donald Trump is going to declare that he won an overwhelming victory in spite of “massive voter fraud.” The tragedy is that while we know this is coming, there is virtually nothing that can be done about it ahead of time.

It gets even worse: Bill Barr and battleground state Republican Party officials will confirm that there were indeed widespread voting irregularities and that no further counting of mailed-in ballots should be allowed as this would only amplify the “fraud.” Mr. Trump will surely second that sentiment and demand that his “victory” be acknowledged and considered legitimate.

The tragic reality is that the fate of democracy in the United States is dependent on the Democrats being able to reverse this de facto coup d’état. The means for this may well depend once again on the Supreme Court.

Like tens of millions of my fellow citizens, I tremble at what has happened to our country and fear for how much worse things will get if Donald Trump is allowed another term as president.

Ric Steinberger
Incline Village, Nev.

To the Editor:

Please, stop with the election forecasting, such as in “The 2020 Battleground States: Updates on the Swing Voters” (nytimes.com, Sept. 13):

As 2016 demonstrated, no one knows the outcome until the votes are counted. The Times’s and other outlets’ insistence on speculating about election results has the potential to persuade some people not to vote who otherwise might. Among them: people who think their candidate is a shoo-in, those who think their candidate is a lost cause or those who think their vote does not matter because they don’t live in a battleground state.

Tell us what candidates do, what they say, when they lie, but chuck the crystal ball.

Janet Majure
Lawrence, Kan.

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