Considering all the brutal events in the past week, John Oliver had a lot to unpack on Last Week Tonight. First, he talked about the protests in the wake of the horrific death of George Floyd. He said how it was a response to the legacy of police misconduct in Minnesota and all over the nation.
He added that the police force is “built on the legacy of white supremacy that prioritizes the comfort of white Americans over the safety of people of color.” He then cut to a clip of Tucker Carlson putting more weight and criticism on the protests, comparing it to the recent incident where Amy Cooper was calling the police on a black man; Christian Cooper had asked her to put a leash on her dog.
“People like Tucker love to venerate order at moments like this and that’s easy to do when order in its current form is designed to benefit and protect you,” Oliver pointed out.
Oliver shifted to Donald Trump, who expressed condolences to Floyd’s death but then soon after wrote a tweet about “thugs” protesting. “When a man like Donald Trump uses the word ‘thugs’, you know exactly what its code for,” he said before turning his focus on one part of the tweet when the former Celebrity Apprentice host said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, a phrase used by “notoriously racist” 1960s Miami police Chief Walter Headley.
“It is truly astounding how Donald Trump has managed to live 74 years with a remedial understanding of spelling, grammar, geography, science, civics, nutrition and child development and yet he’s the f*cking Library of Alexandria when it comes to racist maxims of the 20th century,” said Oliver.
He then pivoted to Trump’s tweets earlier this week about mail-in voting and how it was flagged by Twitter. In fact, Trump has brought up mail-in ballots multiple times.
Oliver starts to unpack the idea of mail-in voting, citing that 70% of people favor allowing any voter to vote by mail if they want to. He adds, “If this pandemic continues into the fall, as it almost certainly will, people will want to do exactly that.”
In-person voting during a pandemic “is a nightmare” considering the points of contact and putting voters and poll workers — many of whom are older — at risk of COVID.
Oliver talks about how voting by mail is important and he points to the chaos that ensued with Wisconsin when they held their primary during the pandemic. The Democratic governor attempted to delay the vote, but it was thwarted and State Assemblyman Robin Vos reassured that it is safe to vote — despite sending mixed signals in full PPE attire and looks of uncertainty.
There was a massive reduction of polling sites during the primary. Milwaukee alone went from 180 polling sites to five and there were a record number of mail-in ballots that were requested but never delivered.
Oliver cut to a clip of Tucker Carlson sharing Trump’s sentiment of mail-in voting being fraudulent to which he called “completely wrong and deeply stupid”. He poked holes in Carlson’s argument and Jeanine Pirro’s convoluted explanation of fraud via absentee voting in a dead person’s name.
“It’s a crime that is difficult, high risk and low reward,” Oliver states.
However, Oliver said that mail-in voting fraud can happen but in practice it’s incredibly rare. In 2016, Oregon had over 2 million votes cast by mail and only 54 cases were suspected of mail fraud.
“I’m not saying that voting by mail is perfect, mail ballots are rejected at a higher rate than those cast in person and it doesn’t work for all communities,” Oliver adds, saying that some people with disabilities need in-person voting and Native American reservations and remote Alaskan villages may have unreliable postal services. However, advocates argue that voting by mail is still a good idea because it would reduce obstacles to civic participation — and that is probably why it is controversial.
Conservatives say that mail-in voting benefits Democrats even though researchers have consistently found that it hasn’t helped one party over another. States will try to fight mail-in voting but come November, there will be a surge and some states will need money fast in order to help with costs of hiring workers and appropriate machinery. That said, it will take longer to count ballots and we may not know who has won until a few days after election day.
Oliver suggests: “If your state allows voting by mail, you can request and return your absentee ballot early. This will help flatten the curve of vote tabulating on election day.”
He said that there are big incentives when you vote by mail: “Not only will you be exercising your civic duty, you’ll also be making Tucker Carlson really f*cking mad.”
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.