With President Donald Trump and his Republican allies working tirelessly to suppress turnout, halt expansions of ballot access, and delegitmize the outcome should it not go their way, a group of Senate Democrats late Sunday delivered an urgent message to the American public just over two weeks out from an election that's shaping up to be closer than recent polls suggest: "Vote—and vote early."
In a 13-page report (pdf), five members of the Senate Democratic caucus—Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)—outlined the various ways in which Trump is attempting to "sow fear and chaos" through disinformation and intimidation tactics, provided key information and deadlines for voters in battleground states, and vowed to "fight to ensure that every vote is counted."
"What we are doing with this effort is ensuring that the American people understand that if American democracy means anything, it means that every vote must be counted—no matter how long it takes."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
"In a democracy, citizens should not have to risk their health or their lives in order to cast their vote," the report reads. "Given the pandemic, there will be a huge increase in mail-in ballots. We urge voters to cast their ballots as early as possible. Despite the president's false claims, according to the leading election experts in our country, voter fraud is nearly nonexistent. The integrity of the election process is strong and election officials across the country are working around the clock to ensure that all votes are counted and counted accurately."
The brief report echoes election officials' concerns that the unprecedented surge in mail-in ballots—disproportionately used by Democratic voters—could "create the false appearance that Republicans are ahead" on Election Night as in-person ballots are tallied and early results are publicized.
"President Trump's rhetoric indicates he may exploit this illusion and claim victory for himself, then falsely claim that there is 'massive fraud' in mail-in ballots that have not yet been counted or reported," the lawmakers warn. "Americans should be prepared to reject misinformation and be patient about results in places where counting ballots may take longer."
I'm standing with @SenAmyKlobuchar, @SenSanders, @ChrisMurphyCT, @MartinHeinrich, and @SenDuckworth to make sure Am… https://t.co/oUHlHPQDDf— Chuck Schumer (@Chuck Schumer) 1603061118.0
In a statement late Sunday, Sanders—who for weeks has been sounding the alarm about Trump's repeated attacks on the legitimacy of the election—said "the American people must be prepared for an election that is unprecedented in our history due to the enormous increase in mail-in ballots that have been, and will be, cast as a result of the pandemic."
"One of the worst lies that Donald Trump is spreading is that there is a massive amount of voter fraud in this country," said the Vermont senator. "That is a total lie which no election official, Republican or Democrat, can support. What we are doing with this effort is ensuring that the American people understand that if American democracy means anything, it means that every vote must be counted—no matter how long it takes."
"The very searing truth is that Donald Trump can still win this race, and every indication we have shows that this thing is going to come down to the wire."
—Jen O'Malley Dillon, Biden campaign manager
Schumer echoed Sanders, saying, "Senate Democrats want to be clear to the American people that the most powerful defense against this type of autocratic behavior in our country is the will of the American people and that is why we are encouraging every American to vote and vote early."
The senators' report comes amid growing anxiety among Biden campaign officials and allies that despite recent polling showing a strong lead for the former vice president nationally and in key battleground states, a confluence of factors—including GOP voter suppression, ongoing efforts to invalidate mail-in ballots, and potentially high Republican turnout—could swing the election in Trump's favor. As of Monday morning, according to the United States Elections Project, a record 28.6 million Americans had already voted early.
"There are more known unknowns than we've ever had at any point," Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, told Politico Monday. "The instruments we have to gauge this race, the polling, our predictive models... the problem is all those tools are built around quote-unquote normal elections. And this is anything but a normal election."
In a memo to supporters on Saturday, Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon cautioned Democrats against complacently trusting polls showing the former vice president with a substantial lead over the unpopular incumbent.
"The very searing truth is that Donald Trump can still win this race, and every indication we have shows that this thing is going to come down to the wire," Dillon said, echoing comments she made last week. "The reality is that this race is far closer than some of the punditry we're seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest. In the key battleground states where this election will be decided, we remain neck and neck with Donald Trump."