Take a pause from President Donald Trump's latest outrage (sending federal police to foment violence in U.S. cities in hopes that it will help his flagging campaign) or inanity ("Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.") - and do the only thing guaranteed to end the nightmare.
Go to Vote.org, or, if you are reading this in the dead-tree edition, type vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote into your browser, spend 30 seconds entering your name, address and date of birth, and you'll find out instantly if your voter registration is current. If not, follow the instructions to register.
Next, type vote.org/absentee-ballot into your browser, and sign yourself up to receive an absentee ballot for the November election. That takes about two minutes. Finally, make sure your friends and family do the same. If they're technology-challenged, help them through it or give them the phone numbers for their states' elections offices, available here at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, eac.gov/voters/election-day-contact-information.
Heck, do it even if you support Trump. Fine by me. If turnout is higher than in 2016 - if Americans truly have their say in November - then Trump doesn't stand a chance. As he said himself this year, if you have higher "levels of voting . . . you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."
One hundred days from Sunday, the election will decide whether the madness subsides or accelerates. Lawmakers so far haven't provided states with the funds needed to prepare for the expected onslaught of mail-in ballots because of the pandemic; New York University's Brennan Center for Justice estimates $2 billion to $4 billion would be needed to avoid a massive electoral crisis. And Trump, who is counting on chaos so that he can dispute unfavorable results, has publicly cast doubt on the security of mail-in ballots at least 50 times this year, The Washington Post calculates. (He draws an essentially meaningless distinction between "mail-in" and "absentee" ballots.).
There's no evidence of the potential for widespread fraud he alleges. But the best remedy is to reject Trump so thoroughly in the balloting that his refusal to commit to honor the outcome will simply look silly. "I have to see," he said last week when asked about accepting the results, as if honoring the will of the people in a democracy is strictly optional.
Underfunded state election offices mean we can expect serious backlogs with the distributing and tallying of mail-in ballots. This is why now is the time to request ballots, before the systems are overwhelmed. The Post's Kate Rabinowitz and Brittany Renee Mayes this past week calculated that 76 percent of American voters can cast ballots by mail in the fall.
Only nine states, an electoral Hall of Shame, make you choose between your health and your right to vote, because they don't count the pandemic as a valid reason to request an absentee ballot. The nine: Connecticut, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
Conversely, if you're lucky enough to live in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Utah, California, Vermont or the District of Columbia, all you have to do is make sure you're registered and your address is correct and you'll automatically receive a ballot in the mail.
If you live in one of the other 34 states, request your ballot at Vote.org. Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio say they will automatically send absentee-ballot applications to all registered voters. But in the rest - including battlegrounds Arizona, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire - it's all up to you to take action and request your ballot. (Some states let you bring the completed absentee ballot to a polling place or collection spot instead of mailing.)
Vote.org's chief executive, Andrea Hailey, tells me that for those in the 13 states requiring a "wet" (non-digital) signature to get an absentee ballot (Ohio and Georgia among them), the nonpartisan, nonprofit group will send stamped envelopes. Those who prefer not to use Vote.org can of course go directly to their states' election offices; other groups doing good work in this area include Rock the Vote, HeadCount, TurboVote and the Voter Participation Center.
Several Republican-controlled states have imposed voter-suppression measures - purges of voting rolls, voter identification laws, closing polling places restricting voting hours, and limiting early voting - and those assaults on voting rights will disenfranchise many. Trump's attacks on mail-in ballots, without which people would be forced to risk their health in long voting lines, could discourage many more.
But sufficiently massive turnout will overwhelm all voter suppression schemes - and the results will leave no doubt for Trump to exploit. The first registration and absentee-ballot deadlines are in about 60 days. Check your registration and get your absentee ballot - now.
Dana Milbank writes for The Washington Post.