Donal Trump is a direct and immediate threat to our democracy. I’m not being alarmist. This is not a drill, people. We have a sitting president of the United States deliberately and intentionally trying to undermine our Democratic institutions and undermine public faith in our election system.

Our Constitutional Republic is predicated on the notion that voters and its elected officials respect and honor the outcome of our free and fair elections.

Trump is sounding more and more like an authoritarian dictator than an elected representative of the people. Instead of ensuring access to timely mailed absentee ballots, his appointee is delaying all mail including mail-in ballots. Instead of respecting whatever outcome happens this November, Trump wants to push the election back to an unknown date. Instead of supporting our hardworking town clerks who run our elections fairly, Trump questions the legitimacy of mail-in ballots even though he himself mails in his own ballot.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by Trump, has worked to slow the delivery of mail, removed high-speed letter sorters, reduced operating hours, cut overtime, removed letter collection boxes, and told states including Maine that mail-in ballots won’t be automatically moved as priority mail. This is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Post Office in order to subvert the will of the people. This is a gross abuse of the power and Congress needs to exert their co-equal branch of government status to push back.

In 2016, 57.2 million voters cast their ballots either early, via absentee or by mail — that’s two out of every five ballots cast. This year, as more voters will be looking to vote by mail to stay in line with public health and social distancing guidelines, systematically dismantling and defunding the Post Office ahead of the Election amounts to voter suppression.

It’s not just the Post Office, though. Without help from the federal government, state and local governments will bear the cost in order to fully protect voters and preserve a fair and equitable voting system in the midst of a pandemic. According to the Brennan Center, the true cost for election resilience measures to ensure a free and fair total into the billions of dollars.

We need D.C. to step to the plate. Democrats introduced the Heroes Act in Congress. Now it awaits action and finalized negotiations in the Senate. The package includes $3.6 billion for state and local governments to make elections safe for voters and poll works and advance necessary election reforms. It also includes $25 billion to prop up and modernize the Post Office ahead of the election.

We must protect the integrity of our elections. We have a president who is trying to rig an election in plain sight, right before our very eyes. While the U.S. Senate has gone home for recess without lifting one finger, we on the state level must do everything we can to help. This is one of many reasons why I voted not once, but twice for the state Legislature to return to session in Augusta, while the vast majority of my Republican colleagues couldn’t even be bothered to vote.

While some of the reforms we are lucky to already have in Maine like no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration, there are a number of other initiatives that would go a long way to making sure everyone feels safe and secure to exercise their right to vote. For example, we need to make sure secure drop off ballot boxes are provided to every town across our state. We had them in Saco and Old Orchard Beach, and they worked well. This helps avoid any problem with mailing delays or the need for stamps, and still provides a secure way to turn in your ballots without putting volunteers and staff at risk. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and Gov. Janet Mills are both working on this. The Legislature should also be part of the discussion around other ways of helping, including paying for postage on mail-in ballots, more time for clerks to count ballots, and implementing online voter registration.

Donald Trump has now made it totally clear: He does not want Americans to be able to safely cast their ballots by mail on Nov. 3. Will his allies in Congress come to the aid of our democracy or remain complicit in this indefensible act?

Repeat after me: We must protect Democratic institutions, not dismantle them. We should be encouraging people to vote, not suppressing the vote. We need to fund ways to make voting easy, accessible, and safe, not defunding voting systems like the Post Office. We need to be supporting our town clerks, not demonize them and lie about their ability to do their job. No less than our Democracy is at stake.

Justin Chenette is serving his second term in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He is the chair of the Government Oversight Committee, co-chair of the Democracy Reform Caucus, a member of the Environment and Natural Resources and Ethics Committees, and serves on the Maine Climate Council’s Coastal & Marine Working Group. He is also a Citizen Trade Policy Commissioner. Outside the Legislature, Justin is in real estate at the Bean Group, owner of a digital marketing firm, and is vice president of Saco Main Street. Follow updates at justinchenette.com.

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