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OPINION

VOTE!

As November approaches, voters must arm themselves with information about the qualifications and deadlines for early or mail-in voting in their states.

Envelopes are placed outside the home of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a "Shut Down DC" protest in Washington, on Aug. 15. The US Postal Service is warning states it can't guarantee all mailed ballots will arrive in time to be counted for the November election, adding to outcry among Democrats that President Donald Trump is deliberately trying to suppress voter turnout during the pandemic.
Envelopes are placed outside the home of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a "Shut Down DC" protest in Washington, on Aug. 15. The US Postal Service is warning states it can't guarantee all mailed ballots will arrive in time to be counted for the November election, adding to outcry among Democrats that President Donald Trump is deliberately trying to suppress voter turnout during the pandemic.Eric Lee/Bloomberg

While promoting his new memoir, “Disloyal,” Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, made this ominous comment about his old boss’s willingness to do “anything and everything” to claim a second term in the White House:

“I believe that he would even go so far as to start a war in order to prevent himself from being removed from office.”

Trump is already waging a war — against democracy. And his weapon of choice is voter suppression.

This isn’t speculative. During an interview last month with Fox Business News, Trump explained why he’s opposed to a $25 billion emergency package for the US Postal Service. Led by Democrats and passed last month in the House, it’s been languishing on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. And that’s just fine with Trump, who is wrecking the Postal Service to undermine mail-in voting in the November election.

“They need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it.”

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There’s no ambiguity here — just as there is none concerning Russia’s manipulations in the last presidential election. In August, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that found conclusive evidence that Trump’s 2016 campaign had extensive contact with the Russian government with the goal of getting Trump to the White House. Yes, Russia (with Trump’s blessing) is again up to its old tricks, but Trump’s fingerprints are clearly all over this administration’s latest crime against democracy.

Had Trump spent as much time fighting for the sanctity of fair voting as he does praising his lethally inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 190,000 people would not be dead, and voters would have a lot more confidence about the election, now less than two months away.

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From bogus charges that mail-in voting — something the president and his wife have done for years — will lead to widespread fraud, to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a big Trump and GOP donor, crippling the Postal Service, Trump is using the full weight of his presidency to delegitimize the election, especially if he loses.

Buoyed by Republican complicity, this is a tactic born of desperation, said LaTosha Brown, cofounder of Black Voters Matter.

“I keep telling people [Trump and his cronies are] not acting like this because they have an advantage. They have to cheat,” she told me. “They’re losing. Their day is up. [Trump] knows that, they know that.

“At some point, what oppression does is it makes us believe that we’re less powerful than we are. We have to keep our eyes on the prize,” Brown added. “We have to focus and grind and recognize that they really are at a disadvantage. They’ve got to be evil, conniving, stealing, lying, cheating — all of those things — because that’s the only advantage they’ve got. When we really recognize that and link up, they just don’t have the numbers [to win].”

Of course, Republicans aren’t abandoning their usual voter suppression schemes, including voter-ID laws, closing poll places in communities of color, purging voter rolls, and screaming at every available opportunity about voter fraud, which is in fact very rare.

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We underestimate Trump at our own peril. Cohen, who probably knows the president as well as anyone, is trying to warn us that the worst is yet to come. Already, Trump has threatened to send various “law enforcement” officials, including sheriffs and “attorney generals (sic)” to polling stations to safeguard against the voter fraud that exists only in his own mind.

Aside from the fact that he probably has no such power to order around local police departments, this old-school intimidation tactic is also against federal law — not that laws seem to have a neutralizing effect on Trump. At his recent rally in North Carolina, he encouraged his supporters to be “poll watchers” for the general election.

As November approaches, voters must arm themselves with information about the qualifications and deadlines for early or mail-in voting in their states. Trump wants to sow confusion, then blame problems on a process he has been deriding since March. Counter his spurious arguments with unassailable knowledge.

President Lyndon B. Johnson called voting “the first duty of democracy.” The current occupant of the White House is trying to erode that duty. We have a responsibility to protect it — and the democracy that will collapse without it.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.