Will post office closures prevent absentee ballots from being sent out? Can voters mail back in their absentee ballots? Postal slowdowns and closures, as well as postal budget woes, are on the table.
What if November voting is thwarted by martial law? Would the president use his power to invoke martial law to quell civil unrest and use the virus pandemic to keep voters under a stay-at-home order?
Globally, of 16 million people with COVID-19, over half a million have died. More than four million U.S. COVID cases have killed about 150,000 people. The U.S. is in the top 10 nations globally for infection rate at over 1,300 cases for every 100,000 people living here. This week, Oklahoma had the fifth fastest-growing per capita case count in the world's biggest pool of infections. In Cherokee County, 30 new cases turned up overnight Tuesday, and by Wednesday morning, we had 270 infections, and still one death. We can't predict what those dangers will be like in three months when we go to the polls.
In a Chris Wallace interview recently, the president stated he "would have to see" whether he would accept the results if Joe Biden won the election. It will make a person wonder if America can safeguard an orderly hand-off of government from the November presidential election until the 2021 presidential swearing-in. The time lag, from a president's election to swearing-in, was so electeds could travel to Washington, D.C., on horseback or by carriage. Scholars have since proposed a shorter transition. Transition time is an ad hoc undefined opportunity for tricks and mischief. Two famous court cases - Marbury v. Madison and U.S. v. Michael Flynn - are examples. Why the delay when jets can deliver incoming leaders to America's capitol in a day?
Incoming presidents-elect immediately begin training to assume leading the government, and have deferential authority. In April, the current administration stepped forward with its plan under the 1963 national transition law, ordering agencies by Sept. 15 to have a transition plan for senior non-career staffers. Yale Law Journal estimates 4,100 existing policymakers will be tasked with training their appointee replacements during the 10 weeks from election to inauguration. But a troubling new normal is that Donald J. Trump uses the military for domestic tranquility. Martial law is when military control is used to take the place of regular laws during an emergency or occupation. Martial law is historically rare, but has been used to quell violent protests, race conflicts, agitators, and fluid chaos, and to protect public safety and maintain law and order by suspending civil rights. It has been used in federal-state conflicts over jurisdiction, authority, and overreach.
It might involve restrictions on leaving one's property. It could result in searches, arrests and detentions that don't meet constitutional standards; it could trump the right to keep weapons. Judicial remedies could be delayed. Discretionary arrests could influence election outcomes. Travel restrictions, security checkpoints and safety zones could interfere with delivering ballots or voting.
Martial law can be declared nationally by the president or within a state by the governor. Under a new law, the president can mobilize not just troops, but also the National Guards of states, usurping state autonomy. Pundits have noted an unprecedented shift toward this president's increasingly partisan use of office, blurring military commander-in-chief duties into campaign rallies, but it is as yet unprecedented to settle political disputes with troops.
Martial law cannot impede an election, constitutionally. It remains to be seen whether being in office is more powerful than the people's right to choose its president.
For the sake of democracy, we must be vigilant that martial law isn't used to prevent an orderly transition.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney, and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.