October 17, 2020

The Mail-Fraud Misdirection Act: The Great Slydini Wouldn’t Be Impressed.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

He was, perhaps, the greatest practitioner of misdirection in the pantheon of the world’s greatest magicians. Born Quintino Marucci in Foggia, Italy, in 1901, Tony Slydini elevated the art of misdirection to pure wonderment, i.e., getting his audience to fixate on one thing while the real action took place elsewhere. Slydini, for generations, had no peer.

Enter President Donald J. Trump.

President Trump, however, is no slouch when it comes to the art of misdirection. He’s a master at setting the news-cycle agenda by tweeting or asserting whatever he wants the nation’s focus to be. He has tens of millions of Americans convinced that voting by mail is the greatest hoax, the greatest fraud, the greatest threat, ever perpetrated on the American electorate. And all the while, the real fraud, voter suppression, is taking place before our very eyes, and there is precious little anyone can do about it because it is performed behind a cloak of legal legerdemain. About these voter suppression antics, President Trump is, of course, silent.

The mail vote imbroglio is not hard to understand. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have mobilized to make it easier for voters to cast their ballots by mail as an alternative to large gatherings at polling places on election day. That effort is something to be celebrated, but not, apparently, by the White House. Will there be mail ballot voting irregularities? Of course. There always are just as there are always irregularities with in-person voting, but numerous studies have demonstrated that instances of voting fraud, whether in person or by mail are rare and immaterial to the outcome of our elections.

Fearing massive, perhaps historic, voter participation, especially in light of the government’s botched initial response to the pandemic, the President has been trying to misdirect voter attention to a massive imaginary plot by Democrats to steal the election. Meanwhile, the real issue on which the nation should be focused is the concerted effort by attorneys retained by the Republican Party and some Republican governors to suppress the vote; especially in highly Democratic minority communities.

The President was quick to point to an example of so-called mail-vote fraud that actually demonstrated the opposite. As this column reported a few weeks ago, nine ballots were improperly discarded in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; a county Trump flipped in 2016. A temporary contract employee had discarded nine ballots that he (or she) concluded were “naked ballots,” i.e., they were mistakenly presumed not to have been received in so-called secrecy envelopes. Pennsylvania law requires such naked ballots to be discarded. Local voting officials quickly spotted the error, corrected it, and reported it. The incident turned out to be pretty much a nonevent. It was, nonetheless, reported to the Justice Department where it found its way to Attorney General Barr, who quickly passed the information on to President Trump. Trump then elevated and misrepresented the incident to the entire nation. Nine ballots incorrectly discarded and quickly reinstated suddenly became a presidential cause celebre and a poster-case for mail-vote fraud.

One voter suppression technique that has drawn national attention and condemnation is being attempted in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott had ordered the removal of all but one early-vote dropbox per county. Harris County, Texas, with a population of five million, would have had only one such dropbox. Not surprisingly, Harris County also hosts the largest concentration of black voters.

Late this week, a Texas judge intervened and stopped the removal of voter dropboxes in Texas. The Republican Party has tried the same thing in Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, in Pennsylvania, a federal judge appointed by President Trump has stopped Trump campaign efforts to have the early-voter dropboxes removed. In Ohio, the Democrats have argued to allow public libraries and other available facilities to host early voters’ drop boxes. Still, the Governor has limited drop boxes to one per county.

Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor, installed as the U.S. Postal Service’s chief officer, immediately began implementing sweeping changes he claimed would eventually increase postal service efficiency while causing significant mail backlogs in various parts of the country during the lead up to election day. DeJoy, under widespread criticism and legal challenges, has agreed to pause the overhaul until after the election.

In South Carolina, a red state that could be competitive for Democrats given Joe Biden’s lead in the polls, a federal judge last month removed a requirement that signatures be witnessed. Still, the US Supreme Court has reinstated the measure granting a stay sought by state Republicans. The Supreme Court did not, however, throw out ballots already cast when the signature requirement was suspended. 

Following a 65% to 35% referendum margin, Florida granted people who had been convicted of a crime and served their time the right to vote. The Republican-controlled state legislature then quickly enacted a law requiring ex-convicts to pay off any debts before they could vote. Republican-appointed judges have upheld the requirement, even though the Florida government has no central record of the amount that the former convicts may owe from convictions that may be decades old. President Trump appointed five of the judges that made up the majority.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Republican Party attorneys are fighting to suppress the vote in presumed Democratic areas throughout the country. Their efforts and President Trump’s shrill allegations of mail-vote fraud has, however, resulted in a massive in-person early voting turnout. Tens of millions of voters are taking the President at his word when he says the Supreme Court will decide the election, so they are turning out in droves to vote early and in person.

The President’s efforts at mail-vote-fraud misdirection seem to be backfiring. The Great Slydini still reigns.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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12 responses to “The Mail-Fraud Misdirection Act: The Great Slydini Wouldn’t Be Impressed.”

  1. Chuck Anderson says:

    I eagerly anticipate the day I see DJT in an orange jumpsuit as well as his offspring ( excepting Barron who is clueless) followed by Barr’s disbarment, and other Trump surrogates appearing on Dancing w/the Stars owing to the fact they can’t find other employment????????

  2. marilyn miller says:

    “Power to the people”, a cry that has been echoed throughout our history. This President has managed to pit Americans against one another like no other. We so need to come together as a nation, in preserving our constitutional rights, to agree to disagree, without reprehensible consequences, preserve and protect our planet, restore dignity and respect towards one another, regardless of race or ethnicity, and most assuredly, our inalienable right to vote. Hal, your eloquently written words, truly is “Of Thee I Sing”

  3. David Higgins says:

    Amendment XX of the US Constitution states that the term of a sitting president ends at noon on the 20th day January. So, regardless of who wins the election on November 3, Donald Trump’s current term will expire on January 20.

    That’s what the Constitution provides. But for me the end of the Trump era occurred on October 13, the day I pushed my paper ballot through the slot on the drop box just down the road from our house. I didn’t see it that way as I labored through the long and sometimes complicated ballot, filling in circles with a black pen. And, as I try and usually succeed in voting in all elections, I didn’t expect my reaction to voting in this one to be any different. However, it was.

    In this age of information overload, everyone has an opinion about Trump…and about Biden. Here’s mine in a nutshell: The Donald Trump presidency has not been good for our country. Trump has not earned the opportunity to serve a second term. Joe Biden will do better. How much better remains to be seen. It’s that simple.

    That sentiment was reflected in how I filled out my ballot. Everything about the Trump presidency was reduced to a mark on a piece of paper. Yet how important was the symbolism of this small act.

    Voting is a fundamental right imbedded in our (yes, our) Constitution. What I didn’t fully appreciate until I cast my ballot a few days ago is what a liberating experience voting can be. And what peace of mind it can bring.

  4. Perry Green says:

    Rather surprised you chose this subject rather than the most
    important revelation of the Hunter Biden Laptop discovery.
    To me that is the paramount issue of the campaign.

    Those of us always remember the number of dead people who
    have supported Democratic Mayor’s in Chicago for years, but
    the bumbling of the ballots in too many instances is again
    perpetrating the notion of a close election being decided by
    fraud.

    I do not defend the president’s behavior I just believe he will
    lead this country against a Media Juggernaut in league with
    the DNC and Wall Street. In my lifetime I am amazed at the
    number of Blue Collar Workers voting for Trump a Republican.
    PS I voted Absentee……..a very simple process.

  5. judy allen says:

    Perry Green,
    You will never find anything critical about Joe, Maxine, Nancy, her nephew Newsome, other Democratic Governors, Mayors and/or their families for that matter in this newsletter.

    I truly believe that Biden and his son have compromised our Country.

  6. Stephen Prover says:

    Response to Judy Allen: Yes. Yes.. Through the years I have often criticized the author of this newsletter for his devotion to the Democratic Party…. Terrible… These Progressive pundits…

  7. Stephen Prover says:

    Response to Judy Allen: Yes. Yes.. Through the years I have often criticized the author of this newsletter for his devotion to the Democratic Party…. Terrible… These Progressive pundits.

  8. Pat Hubbard says:

    Answer to Perry and Judy. Talk about Republicans disinformation. Check this out. https://apple.news/Ajg7hYWKyQUOBrHUTu66R6Q

  9. Stuart Goldfine says:

    If mass mailing of ballots is so wonderful, why aren’t all 50 states doing it? They know there will be voter FRAUD.

  10. Robert borns says:

    Slydinis skill which brought him fame may be the defect that brings trump down. When trump talks of voter fraud and centers the conversation on that topic he doesn’t focus the conversation on what will get him realected- the incredible monumental accomplishments of his time. He has alerted us to our China problem, helped start to bring a real peace to the Middle East, get blacks unfairly imprisoned for to long out of prison, bring business and jobs back to the USA, and on and on and on. Trump has a stupid obnoxious mouth but a brilliant clear headed brain when it comes to what should be do done for this country. I fear for the future of this country if his stupid mouth elects an early stage brain suffering opponent who may turn out to be a simple crook.

  11. Michael Gong says:

    Thank you, Hal, for another essay that’s right on the money.
    Thank you, Chuck Anderson. You are rocking and rolling.
    Why are you Neo-Fascists so afraid of voting by mail? You can’t close all the polling places in poor Black areas anyway. Alas, your hero will go to jail for the same reason as Al Capone, tax fraud. White power is toast. Too bad.

  12. Larry Kite says:

    Perry Green,
    The Hunter Biden laptop “discovery” may not be the paramount issue in this campaign, but it should be given its due. I would love to understand why Rudy Giuliani refuses to release the laptop drive, obtained from an avowed Trump supporter with the help of a Trump operative indicted for fraud, to any media outlet other than the Murdoch-owned New York Post; why the authors of the Post article refused to have their names attached to its byline; why the FBI, instigator of October Surprise 2016, appears reticent to entangle itself in what could easily turn out to be another attempt by a foreign power to influence a US election; and why the story can’t be corroborated by any other source. I admit I am being a bit disingenuous. I understand why this story is not the paramount issue in this campaign. It reeks of disinformation propagated by bad actors on behalf of a President with a vanishing probability of winning re-election on his questionable merits.

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