NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 07 November) — Pathetic, how else would you describe the man?

On the verge of losing, US President Donald Trump cried “fraud” and moved to stop the counting of ballots in the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania and  Michigan where his leads are fast diminishing, never mind that by so doing he undermines the democratic system. He wanted, however, the counting to continue in Arizona and Nevada where he is trailing behind. By stopping the count in said three states, he thought he would be assured of victory there. On the other hand, he wants the counting to continue in Nevada and Arizona, hoping to overtake the leads of Biden. Thus, we have a ridiculously insane situation where Trump supporters are shouting, bearing placards “Stop the Steal,” “Stop the Counting” in one place and “Count the ballot” in another.

Trump attributes his disappearing chance in the battleground or swing states to the flood of mail-in ballots in these states resulting most likely from voters’ aversion to person-in voting in the advent of the unprecedented surge of COVID 19 infection cases in said areas.

Even while still on the campaign trail, Trump was already shouting “fraud.” He has accused mail-in voting of “destroying our system.”

“It is a corrupt system and it makes people corrupt even if they are not by nature but they become corrupt,” Mr Trump said.

Mr. Trump has portrayed mail-in voting as unreliable and untrustworthy and wanted it scuttled, while the Democrats have actively encouraged people to use the system to avoid the pandemic scourge.

In the U.S., voting in person on Election Day has always been the standard way of exercising that fundamental right. But over the centuries, voting by mail or absentee voting (terms often interchangeably used) has become an attractive and convenient alternative for many — thanks in large part to the influence of wartime necessity.

Time reports that as early as in the 17th-century, in Massachusetts, men could vote from home if their homes were “vulnerable to Indian attack,” according to historian Alex Keyssar’s book The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, and the votes of some Continental Army soldiers were presented in writing “as if the men were present themselves” in Hollis, N.H., in 1775 during the American Revolution.

But it was during the Civil War that America employed absentee voting on a large scale, since many of the men who were eligible to vote were away from home fighting. During the 1864 presidential election — in which Republican incumbent President Abraham Lincoln defeated Democratic candidate George McClellan — Union soldiers voted in camps and field hospitals, under the supervision of clerks or state officials.

In recent years, not just the military personnel or civilians in government posts but also travelling US citizens, those working outside the country and the sick may avail of absentee voting to exercise their right of suffrage.

The greatness of America lies not in its staying power but in its ability to change, to constantly innovate, to adeptly adapt to the needs of the times. That is the spirit that moves the US forward.

Trump, a business tycoon, knows that mail-in voting is a pragmatic help to US citizens who could not go to the polling place for one reason or another but refuses to accept this advantage because of its perceived effects, under the present circumstance, that run counter to his consuming interest of remaining in power.

Now Trump considers the practice corrupt and corrupting and, from his logic, it has to be uprooted, removed from the system for good. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)