Insiders are now unloading stocks — here’s why you shouldn’t see this as a sell signal for this market


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Corporate insiders apparently don’t believe a bear market is imminent.

That’s the conclusion I draw from data compiled by Nejat Seyhun, a finance professor at the University of Michigan and one of academia’s leading experts on the behavior of corporate insiders. The last time I checked in with Seyhun, in mid-June, the data on all publicly traded stocks were saying something similar. I reported then that “corporate insiders do not appear to be particularly worried about a bear market occurring anytime soon” and were therefore “providing powerful support for the bull market.”

Since then, the S&P 500
SPX,
+0.67%

(with dividends) has gained 10%.

By corporate insiders I’m referring to a company’s officers and directors as well as its largest shareholders. They are required to report more or less immediately to the Securities and Exchange Commission whenever they buy or sell shares of company stock, and many on Wall Street slice and dice that data for clues about the broad market’s likely direction.

Unlike some on Wall Street, however, Seyhun does not weight each insider equally when slicing and dicing the data. He has found from his research that the third category of insiders—companies’ largest shareholders — do not have particular insight into their firms’ prospects. And it’s crucial to strip out their transactions from the composite data because the dollar value of their purchases and sales typically will be far larger than those undertaken by officers and directors.

Now is one of those times when the largest shareholders are skewing the data. They are selling stock at an aggressive clip, making it look as though insiders as a group are betting on a market decline. But a different picture emerges when we focus on just those insiders that Seyhun’s research has found to be worth following.

To come up with a single indicator, Seyhun focuses on just those firms for which there has been at least one transaction from an officer or director, and then calculates the proportion of them for which more shares were purchased than sold. This net insider buying percent for the first half of August was 21.9%.

As you can see from the chart above, this is a lot lower than the 62.0% that prevailed in the month of March, when the bear market hit its bottom. Nevertheless, Seyhun told me in an email, because this latest reading is not significantly lower than the 10-year average, the best guess is that the market in coming months will not do appreciably better or worse than average.

That’s good news if you were worried about an imminent bear market. It’s not-as-good news if were expecting the stock market over the next few months to repeat its incredible run over the last five months.

Which sectors do the insiders like the best?

These conclusions are based on composite data for the entire market, and as you would expect, there is considerable variation from one sector to another. The sectors for which there is the greatest amount of net insider buying are—as was the case two months ago—energy and financials. In fact, insiders in these sectors are slightly more bullish today than they were then.

That’s very revealing, because both sectors have lost ground over the last two months. The Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF
XLE,
+1.78%

has lost 11.2% since my mid-June insider column was published; the Financials Select Sector SPDR ETF
XLF,
+0.39%

has lost 0.3%. Seyhun has found from his research that one of the most bearish things insiders can do is to sell into a decline, since that suggests they have no confidence that their companies’ shares will recover soon.

Fortunately for these two sectors, that’s not how insiders as a group are behaving.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, insiders in the health-care sector, and especially among small-cap stocks with this sector, are selling at a well-above-average pace.

Mark Hulbert is a regular contributor to MarketWatch. His Hulbert Ratings tracks investment newsletters that pay a flat fee to be audited. He can be reached at mark@hulbertratings.com.



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Four million U.S. workers have had their pay cut this year — here’s what to do if you’re one of them


COVID-19 is diminishing our health but also the wages of those lucky enough to be employed, including white-collar workers.

With more than 4 million U.S. workers having suffered pay cuts since February, what are we to do?

First, get the panic out of the way. We need to express our emotions and vent our frustrations before we can make solid financial decisions. If a salary decrease is on your horizon or if you think it may be, follow these steps:

1. Review debt details

Long-term debt:

Refinance a mortgage: Interest rates are low, and if you can reduce your rate by 50 basis points, you will save money on interest immediately and in the long run. Some banks are offering no closing costs.

Home equity: Lines of credit and loans have shorter terms than most mortgages. Plus, home equity lines have a balloon payment at the end. If you have a home equity loan, the rate may be lower by refinancing your mortgage debt.

One couple combined their home equity with their mortgage, resulting in $220 in monthly cost savings. By keeping to their 15-year mortgage-payoff term, they were able to combine all home debt and lived more comfortably financially.

Caution: Do not extend the years left to pay off the mortgage.

Short-term debt:

Credit cards: If you have a big balance or just can’t pay it in full, reach out to your credit card company. Being proactive pays off as companies are lowering interest rates, canceling late fees and offering payment plans to those who ask.

Intermediate debt:

Student loans: The government has plans in place to save you from making payments until 2021.

Car loans: Do not buy a car now that you have a lower home payment. Do not consider a lease — you won’t own it at the end of the lease period. Instead, look at the details. When will your loan be paid off? How much equity do you have in the car? What is the interest rate? What is the car worth? With information, you make better decisions. Knowing what you’re facing makes a difference. Stretching to pay a loan for the next eight months, for example, may make rational sense if you will own the car outright.

2. Talk to your partner and family

Look at this as an opportunity to get your affairs in order with your partner. Let the family know you will have less money to spend. By giving everyone a heads up, you enable them to become part of the solution. It’s easier to say no to the little things, so the bigger expenses do not have to change. When you stand together, this will be easier.

As far as the kids go, you need only go into details depending on their age. “We won’t be going skiing this winter, so what else can we do locally for winter fun?” They are going to be impacted by this change, which won’t go unnoticed. Prepare them.

To increase your family’s comfort level, share some facts: More than half (53%) of people are currently earning half or less of their pre-pandemic income. Let them know that, as a family, you will be OK with a few changes.

Consider the good that may come from this hard work and honest change. One former client told me that, after the breadwinner took a pay cut from a corporate salary to nonprofit work, she began to “like my children even more.” Because she had to say “no” to them more often and their requests, the kids appreciated what they had. She found them to be more compassionate and less entitled — even at only seven and nine years old.

3. Be thoughtful — and ruthless — on how and what to buy

Rethink every purchase. With your new priorities in mind, trade-offs become easier. We may say “no” to getting big gifts for family or friends, but remember we can still pay our mortgage. We can say “no” to some of our favorite clothes and subscription services, but retain Netflix
NFLX,
-1.12%

and Spotify
SPOT,
+0.61%

to soothe our soul. We do not have to like trade-offs. Nor do we have to be perfect on the first try.

Other small steps with a big impact:

• Separate your credit card from Apple
AAPL,
+5.15%

Pay and Amazon
AMZN,
-0.38%
.
Reentering or reaching for your card takes more time to check out. This time may make you reconsider if what you are buying is worth the effort. Small changes make a difference. Even deciding to order only from Amazon every two weeks keeps expenses in check.

• Use a debit card more often. You will be spending only what you have. As long as you track your income and outflows, you will know your balances.

• Use cash for certain expenses, such as for coffee and grocery shopping: Typically, I use cash for grocery shopping. I never spend more than I planned because I use only the money in my pocket. (Just be sure to wash your hands after putting the change in your pocket.)

One couple I know created a grand plan based on living on one paycheck. How did they do it? They focused on safety savings if either one of them became unemployed. They tweaked the plan over time.

Here is what they said:

“We actually acted as if it was worse than it was, that way we had “slush” money for the occasional takeout or new shoes. Each month it got progressively better and kept us in tune with what we were spending. With the pandemic and fewer entertainment and eating-out expenses, this was not as difficult as it once was. Though we did have to communicate much more about our plans, I felt we strengthened our financial backbone. And by making it feel like a game we were competing in together, we did not scare or stress out our young kids.”

The world is changing, and there is a lot of fear and uncertainty. Make changes every day to give you a new way of life with the income you do have.

CD Moriarty, CFP, is a columnist for MarketWatch and a personal-finance speaker, writer and coach. She blogs at Money Peace.



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‘The housing market is on a sugar high’: Home sales are soaring, but is it a good time to buy? Here’s what the experts say


Americans are rushing to buy homes right now. But should you be one of them?

Sales of previously-owned homes in the U.S. rose 24.7% between June and July to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.86 million, the National Association of Realtors reported Friday. Not only did the percentage increase represent a record, but the sales volume was the highest the U.S. has seen since 2006.

It’s a stunning turnaround from just a few months earlier when the coronavirus pandemic caused record-breaking decreases in sales as Americans were staying home to avoid getting sick.

To a large extent, the bumper demand for housing is an indication that Americans are aiming to make up for lost time. Many economists believe that what we’re seeing now is essentially a postponed spring home-buying season.

“The housing market is on a sugar high brought on by government stimulus and a pandemic-fueled rush to low density housing,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of market economics at Auction.com, a real-estate website for foreclosure sales.

Don’t miss:THE BIG MOVE: I work in Silicon Valley, but my job is now remote. I can finally live somewhere cheaper. Where should I go?

“Prospective buyers will be better positioned for success as homeowners if they understand that this sugar high will not last and make sure their decision to buy is grounded in longer term factors that will affect their ability and willingness to commit to paying down a sizable amount of debt over the next 30 years,” Blomquist added.

But even with home-sales activity reaching record levels, many Americans remain unsure of whether now is the right time to make the biggest financial decision of most people’s lives. The home purchase sentiment index from Fannie Mae
FNMA,
-1.80%

decreased in July, as people’s view of home-buying conditions worsened in tandem with rising coronavirus cases across much of the country.

Here are the factors that experts say you need to consider:

Interest rates remain near all-time lows

From a financing perspective, buying a home is something of a no-brainer right now. And indeed, record-low interest rates helped spur much of the rise in home sales.

“No matter what you’re looking for, this is a great time to buy since the current low interest rates can stretch your spending power,” said Bill Banfield, executive vice president of capital markets at Quicken Loans
RKT,
+8.82%
.
“With interest rates in the two’s available, a buyer can afford much more home than they could have just a few years ago.”

While many economists expect interest rates to remain roughly this low for a while, they likely won’t get a whole lot lower. Mortgage rates have fallen in response to the pandemic and the effect it had on the economy. So if a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 were to be discovered, rates would likely shoot upward.

“There are no guarantees,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree
TREE,
-1.22%
.
“So affordability could decline going forward.”

There aren’t many homes for sale

As the adage goes, you can’t buy what’s not for sale. And right now, well, there’s not much for sale across most of the country.

“Now is a great time to buy because of incredible mortgage rates, but a terrible time to buy because of inventory,” said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist and senior vice president of analytics at financial-technology company Haus.

As McLaughlin put it, buyers are going to face a tough choice right now: Do you lock in a low rate and settle for whatever’s on the market, or do you wait for your dream home and risk a higher interest rate.

“If you plan on finding your dream home, it’s probably better to wait,” McLaughlin said. “But if you plan on trading up in a few years now isn’t a terrible time, other than low inventory, of course.”

Competition is driving faster sales and higher prices

The tight inventory of homes for sale right now is being met with a large swathe of eager buyers. And that’s a recipe for rising prices and bidding wars.

Median home list prices were up 10.1% year-over-year for the week ending Aug. 15, according to a recent report from Realtor.com. That’s the fastest growth in listing prices since January 2018. Low-interest rates allow prices to rise more quickly.

And homes are coming off the market at a rapid pace. Over two-thirds of the homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month, the National Association of Realtors reported. “That quick-decision environment may challenge some buyers, especially first-timers who are new to the process,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.

The good news is that high prices might coax some sellers into the market, said Holden Lewis, housing and mortgage expert at personal-finance website NerdWallet. More inventory on the market would keep prices and competition in check.

Falling prices aren’t necessarily something buyers should hold out for. “If prices fall significantly and inventory rises dramatically, that means the economy has taken a hard turn for the worse and you may have other priorities than housing,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Also see:Mortgage rates are going back up — just as home prices begin to skyrocket

Where you live and the lifestyle you lead are important

As any real-estate agent will tell you, all real estate is local. So what’s happening one town over or at the national level may have little bearing on what you’ll encounter in the housing market.

“Are you an owner moving from a fast-paced real estate market…to a housing market where the pace is a bit less frenzied? If yes, then this may be a good time for you,” Hale said.

For instance, if you own a home in a suburb of New York City but would like to live closer to the action, say in Manhattan, now may be a great time to buy. A recent Zillow
ZG,
+0.01%

report threw cool water on the common wisdom that people are fleeing to the suburbs — with some exceptions. Zillow found that in most parts of the country suburban markets have not strengthened at a disproportionately faster rate than urban markets.

But in Manhattan, home values are indeed down 4.2% from last year and properties are staying on the market longer.

Yet he biggest factor for most people in deciding whether to buy will be their lifestyle. Traditionally, most home-buying decisions revolve around milestones like getting married, having kids or retiring. Millennials are growing their families and reaching their peak home-buying years. And with more people working from home, the need for more space is a factor for many would-be buyers.

If you find yourself in that position, then experts suggest not hesitating. If you have enough in savings to afford the down payment and ancillary costs of buying a home, fetch yourself a low rate and look for a home that suits your needs.

On the other hand, if you are “in between jobs or working in an industry that’s been particularly hard-hit by the recession, it may be a better time to wait,” Hale said.



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Here’s everything coming to Netflix in September 2020 — and what’s leaving


Netflix Inc. is rolling out the big names with a slate of prestige releases in September 2020.

Those include Ryan Murphy’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” prequel series “Ratched” (Sept. 18)), starring Emmy-winner Sarah Paulson as the notorious nurse; the astronaut drama series “Away” (Sept. 4), starring Oscar-winner Hilary Swank; “Enola Holmes” (Sept. 23), a movie starring Millie Bobbie Brown (of “Stranger Things”) as Sherlock’s younger sister; and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Sept. 4), a psychological horror film from Oscar-winning writer/director Charlie Kaufman.

That’s on top of a dump-truck load of new originals, including the Swedish detective prequel “Young Wallander” (Sept. 3); the rom-com movie “Love, Guaranteed” (Sept. 3) starring Rachel Leigh Cook and Daymon Wayans Jr.; Season 2 of the British police-interrogation drama “Criminal” (Sept. 16); the karaoke competition “Sing On!” (Sept. 16) starring Tituss Burgess; the “Jurassic World” teen adventure spinoff “Camp Cretaceous” (Sept. 18); and a plateful of food porn including “Chef’s Table: BBQ” (Sept. 2), “Taco Chronicles Volume 2” (Sept. 15) and “American Barbecue Showdown” (Sept. 18).

Netflix
NFLX,
-1.49%

is also adding all three “Back to the Future” movies (all Sept. 1), all six seasons of “Sister, Sister” (Sept 1) and the final season of “The Good Place” (Sept. 26).

Also:More streaming picks at What’s Worth Streaming

And it’ll be your last chance to check out the Korean zombie classic “Train to Busan,” the first three “Jurassic Park” movies and “The Social Network,” among others, which will all leave by the end of the month.

Here’s everything on tap, as of Aug. 19 (release dates are subject to change):

What’s coming in September

Release dates TBA

ARASHI’s Diary – Voyage: Episode 12 — Netflix Documentary

GIMS: On the Record — Netflix Documentary

Sept. 1

Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices — Netflix Family

The Boss Baby: Get That Baby! — Netflix Family

Felipe Esparza: Bad Decisions/Malas Decisiones (2020) — Netflix Comedy Special

La Partita/The Match — Netflix Film

True: Friendship Day — Netflix Family

Adrift

Anaconda

Back to the Future

Back to the Future Part II

Back to the Future Part III

Barbershop

Barbie Princess Adventure

Borgen: Season 1-3

Children of the Sea

Coneheads

Glory

Grease

Magic Mike

The Muppets

Muppets Most Wanted

Not Another Teen Movie

Pineapple Express

Possession

The Producers (2005)

The Promised Neverland: Season 1

Puss in Boots

Red Dragon

Residue

Sex Drive

Sister, Sister: Seasons 1-6

The Smurfs

Wildlife

Zathura

Sept. 2

Bad Boy Billionaires: India — Netflix Documentary

Chef’s Table: BBQ — Netflix Documentary

Freaks: You’re One of Us — Netflix Film

Sept. 3

Alfonso Padilha: Alma de Pobre — Netflix Comedy Special

Love, Guaranteed — Netflix Film

Young Wallander — Netflix Original

Sept. 4

Away — Netflix Original

I’m Thinking of Ending Things — Netflix Film

The Lost Okoroshi

Spirit Riding Free: Riding Academy: Part 2 — Netflix Original

Sept. 7

Midnight Special

My Octopus Teacher — Netflix Documentary

Record of Youth — Netflix Original

Waiting for ‘Superman’

Sept. 8

StarBeam: Season 2 — Netflix Family

Sept. 9

Corazón Loco/So Much Love to Give — Netflix Film

Get Organized with The Home Edit — Netflix Original

La Línea: Shadow of Narco — Netflix Documentary

Mignonnes/Cuties — Netflix Film

The Social Dilemma — Netflix Documentary

Sept. 10

The Babysitter: Killer Queen — Netflix Film

The Gift: Season 2 — Netflix Original

Greenleaf: Season 5

The Idhun Chronicles — Netflix Anime

Julie and the Phantoms — Netflix Family

Sept. 11

The Duchess — Netflix Original

Family Business: Season 2 — Netflix Original

Girlfriends: Seasons 1-8

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Pets United — Netflix Family

Pokémon Journeys: The Series: Part 2 — Netflix Family

Se busca papá/Dad Wanted — Netflix Film

Sept. 15

America’s Book of Secrets: Season 2

Ancient Aliens: Season 3

Cold Case Files Classic: Season 1

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 4

Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice — Netflix Documentary

Izzy’s Koala World — Netflix Family

Michael McIntyre: Showman — Netflix Comedy Special

Pawn Stars: Season 2

The Rap Game: Season 2

The Smurfs: Season 2

Taco Chronicles: Volume 2 — Netflix Original

The Universe: Season 2

Sept. 16

Baby: Season 3 — Netflix Original

Challenger: The Final Flight — Netflix Documentary

The Devil All the Time — Netflix Film

MeatEater: Season 9 — Netflix Original

The Paramedic — Netflix Film

Signs: Season 2 — Netflix Original

Sing On! — Netflix Original

Sept. 17

Dragon’s Dogma — Netflix Anime

The Last Word — Netflix Original

Sept. 18

American Barbecue Showdown — Netflix Original

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous — Netflix Family

Ratched — Netflix Original

Sept. 21

A Love Song for Latasha — Netflix Documentary

Sept. 22

Chico Bon Bon: Monkey with a Tool Belt: Season 3 — Netflix Family

Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father: Season 4 — Netflix Original

Kiss the Ground

The Playbook — Netflix Documentary

Mighty Express — Netflix Family

Sept. 23

Enola Holmes — Netflix Film

Waiting…

Sept. 24

The Chef Show: Season 2 — Netflix Documentary

Real Steel

Sept. 25

A Perfect Crime — Netflix Documentary

Country-Ish — Netflix Original

Nasty C

The School Nurse Files — Netflix Original

Sneakerheads — Netflix Original

Sept. 26

The Good Place: Season 4

Sept. 27

Bad Teacher

Van Helsing: Season 4

Sept. 28

Whose Vote Counts, Explained — Netflix Original

Sept. 29

Michelle Buteau: Welcome to Buteaupia — Netflix Comedy Special

Welcome to Sudden Death

Sept. 30

American Murder: The Family Next Door — Netflix Documentary

Wentworth: Season 8

What’s leaving in September

Sept. 4

Christopher Robin

Sept. 5

Once Upon a Time: Seasons 1-7

Sept. 8

Norm of the North: King Sized Adventure

Sept. 10

The Forgotten

Sept. 14

Cold Case Files: Season 1

Sept. 15

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Sept. 16

The Witch

Sept. 17

Train to Busan

Sept. 20

Sarah’s Key

Sept. 21

Person of Interest: Seasons 1-5

SMOSH: The Movie

Sept. 22

20 Feet From Stardom

Sept. 26

The Grandmaster

Sept. 28

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Sept. 30

2012

40 Days and 40 Nights

A Knight’s Tale

Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke

Dear John

Despicable Me

Donnie Brasco

Frances Ha

House of the Witch

Inside Man

Insidious

Jurassic Park

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park III

Menace II Society

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Kombat

Mud

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Schindler’s List

Seabiscuit

Sinister

Starship Troopers

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Terminator Salvation

The Devil’s Advocate

The Social Network

Zack and Miri Make a Porno



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Trump is openly sabotaging the election, and here’s how you can stop him


There’s really no other way to say it: the president of the United States is trying to sabotage the U.S. election by denying the Postal Service money it needs to process voting by mail. It’s not subtle, and it’s not seriously disputed that he’s trying to do this—in fact, President Donald Trump came right out and admitted what he’s doing

It is welcome news that Postmaster General and Trump megadonor Louis DeJoy has announced that the Post Office “will deliver the nation’s election mail on time” — but it is astounding that it was necessary to issue this statement. DeJoy’s statement is essentially the equivalent of a bank telling customers it has enough money to meet any demands from depositors—it’s the kind of thing that, one would think, would normally go without saying.

The reason DeJoy felt compelled to issue this “the sky is still blue” statement is because voters have gotten concerned that they couldn’t trust the Postal Service to carry out its normal function. These concerns did not materialize out of thin air: USPS had recently told 46 states and DC that it couldn’t guarantee delivery of last-minute ballot requests in time for the election, and there were reports of delays in mail delivery

Sadly, it’s worth updating and applying Ronald Reagan’s old “trust, but verify” maxim to both DeJoy and Trump—although for this crew, we have to call it “don’t trust, but be absolutely sure to verify.” 

Senators should hold DeJoy’s feet to the fire if he testifies before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee this Friday. They should make sure they receive updates before the election in order to ensure that DeJoy fulfills his promise of on-time delivery in the context of the election. 

Senators should also gather information from rank-and-file postal employees in order to find out whether more changes are needed—for example, a reversal of DeJoy’s “bans on overtime and extra delivery trips.” They should also make sure USPS has the money it needs to carry out its mission. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoes his boss in saying aid supported by Democrats isn’t necessary: senators should determine for themselves whether this is indeed the case.

But we should also recognize that, even if DeJoy keeps to his word and the Postal Service has all the funding it needs, at least two other problems remain. 

First, damage to voter confidence may already have been done. Second, there is no indication that Trump has given up on his efforts to sabotage the election.

It’s clear that Trump’s strategy has at least three related goals: 1) suppress the mail-in vote, which he believes will favor his opponent, Joe Biden; 2) allow Trump to claim victory on Nov. 3 if he’s leading in the early returns while mail-in ballots remain to be counted; and 3) if none of that works and Biden wins anyway, baselessly plant enough doubt in the minds of his supporters that they will incorrectly believe the election was illegitimate.

This perfidious effort to manipulate the election is nothing new and will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following Trump’s twisted electoral strategy and, indeed, his political career. 

In 2016, Trump welcomed Russian assistance aimed at improving his chances in the election. When that episode was exposed, a number of Trump’s associates were convicted of crimes

Breaking news: Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia posed ‘grave’ risk in 2016, bipartisan Senate intelligence report concludes

Last year, Trump tried to pressure Ukraine’s president into illicitly tilting the electoral scales in Trump’s favor by falsely smearing Joe Biden. When that plot was exposed, Trump was impeached. 

But Trump is resourceful when it comes to trying to stay in power, and impeachment didn’t stop him from looking for ways to gain an underhanded advantage in the election (Sen. Susan Collins’s hopes notwithstanding). 

People who have become attached to the notion of constitutional democracy can be forgiven if they are worried. But it’s essential to take a deep breath, maintain perspective and not panic. 

Trump’s actions reflect his desperation. He is trailing in the polls and knows he could use a boost—even an ill-gotten one. The fact that Trump is relying on a deeply immoral, possibly illegal scheme to shore up his chances at re-election does not guarantee he will succeed—far from it.

One thing we have in our favor—those of us who feel strongly about free and fair elections—is that Trump’s plan has been exposed with nearly three months to go before the election takes place. That means we have time to take a deep breath and make a plan for preserving our democracy against Trump’s despicable efforts to take it away.

Trump wants Biden voters to lose faith in the process and to incorrectly believe that there’s no point to voting by mail. DeJoy’s statement may help shore up some of that voter confidence—but, no matter what Trump, DeJoy or anyone else does, there are steps we can all take to make sure our vote is counted—no matter who we choose to vote for.

Voting experts tell us there are concrete, specific actions all voters—no matter who they vote for—can take to make sure their vote counts (as Michelle Obama alluded to in her powerful speech last night). Here are a few important points to keep in mind, depending on the rules in your state (and please be sure to confirm information with your state and local election officials):

  • If your state allows voting by mail and you need to request a mail ballot, don’t wait—request it now. When you receive your ballot, again, don’t wait—return it as soon as you can. One voting rights expert calls the strategy of moving promptly with mail-in ballots a good way to “flatten the absentee ballot curve”. You can track your ballot online to receive confirmation that it was received and accepted.
  • As voting expert Michael McDonald says, “You don’t have to be afraid if your mail ballot does not arrive or [you decide you] don’t want to vote [by mail]. You can always vote in-person. Election officials have safeguards to ensure no duplicate votes. You may need to bring your mail ballot (if you have it) or vote a provisional ballot.”

Trump has tried to scare voters out of using the mail by falsely making them think they may have to worry about their vote getting in on time. He knows this is naked deception—he’s apparently using the mail himself to vote in Florida’s primary, as he has in the past. Trump’s actions are an act of desperation, the acts of an amoral man who knows he is trailing in the polls and will do whatever he can to try to gain an edge. 

Whether you use the mail or another available option (depending on where you live) you have the power here, not Trump. That’s what it means to have a democracy—power resides in “We the people”. 

It will require a little planning and now is certainly not a time to procrastinate when it comes to the most cherished right in a democracy. People in Belarus are risking and in some cases enduring torture to stand up for a free and fair election. Thankfully, we don’t need the same level of courage to make our democracy work. If his efforts to undermine confidence in the Postal Service don’t work, Trump will surely try something else—but he’s running out of time. 

If we are careful, if we are responsible, and if we don’t give in to Trump’s scare tactics, we have all the tools we need to make sure our vote is counted—which is the last thing Trump wants, as his cartoon villain actions make clear.

Chris Edelson is an assistant professor of government in American University’s School of Public Affairs. He has written two books on presidential power. Follow him at @ChrisEdelson on Twitter.





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