Saving Our Snail Mail—And Our Votes

DeJoy and President Trump seem to be using the USPS as a political tool, allowing them to skew the election results in Trump’s favor.

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By Ka Seng Soo

Since the establishment of the United States in 1776, the debate over the enfranchisement of various groups has wound its way through American history. Initially, the right to vote was only granted to white, property-owning men, but as time went on, more and more groups were allowed at the polls. States could no longer use religion as a factor in determining who could vote in 1828. The 15th Amendment granted the right to vote to all men regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” in 1870. Then, the 19th Amendment struck down the gender requirement in 1920, owing entirely to the women’s suffrage movement that had been blazing for decades. Finally, with the 26th Amendment of 1971, the United States put into place the system that we have today, wherein all American citizens age 18 or older are eligible to vote.

But after centuries of fighting, the American people face a new threat to their ability to vote—a threat that comes directly from the Oval Office. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on and we draw closer to the November election, many states are gearing up to allow citizens to vote from home—rather than having to risk their lives at the polls. The method of choice for many states is allowing the increased usage of absentee and mail-in ballots, which are handled by the United States Postal Service (USPS). Voting by mail is not a new concept. Taking different forms throughout the U.S., this method allows Americans to cast their votes from the comfort of their own homes, and allows those who would otherwise not be able to get to the polling stations a chance to exercise their Constitutional right. It has become increasingly common in the past few years, growing from 7.8 percent of voters choosing this method in 1996 to nearly 21 percent of voters using mail to vote in 2016. Though the USPS should be working to improve the efficiency of mail in preparation for the upcoming election, since Postmaster General Louis DeJoy rose to the position in June, he has only made changes that have caused delays in the postal service system. Though he claims that he is making these changes to improve the fiscal state of the USPS, it seems that DeJoy’s actions have a political motivation behind them. DeJoy and President Trump seem to be wielding the USPS as a political tool, allowing them to skew the election results in Trump’s favor.

DeJoy’s changes—eliminating employee overtime, removing mail-sorting machines from postal facilities across the country, and reorganizing leadership—have all compromised the efficiency of the USPS. And many states across the United States are already reeling from the repercussions of DeJoy’s changes. For example, seven mail-processing machines were removed from a processing center in West Philadelphia, and post offices were told to open later and close during lunch. Accordingly, Representative Brendan Boyle of Philadelphia said that his office received 345 complaints about the Postal Service last month, compared to only 17 complaints in July of 2019. The USPS has informed 41 states that there are concerns about the timeliness of mail-in ballots, a staggeringly high number. Thus, there is no doubt that DeJoy’s actions have negatively impacted the USPS’s ability to deliver mail in a timely fashion. And new information that has surfaced makes it abundantly clear that his motivations are of a political nature.

For one, DeJoy is a member of the Republican Party and a Trump mega-donor. This information alone is certainly not enough evidence to prove that he is intentionally derailing the USPS. But his response when called to testify in front of the House of Representatives and explain the USPS’s delays suggests that these facts might have greater relevance than what meets the eye. During his testimony, he denied claims that he was using the USPS delays to support President Trump’s pursuits, saying, “I am not engaged in sabotaging the election. We will do everything in our power and structure to deliver the ballots on time.” DeJoy also told lawmakers that he did not put into place some of the changes that were causing concern—such as the removal of blue mailboxes and mail-sorting machines—and that he did not know who had put those changes into place. But after being asked repeatedly if he would restore the removed mail-sorting machines, DeJoy barked “I will not” before launching into a tirade about the lack of funding the USPS has received. Eventually, he told Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat of California, “get me the billion and I’ll put the machines in.” DeJoy’s defensiveness and claims that changes were made right under his nose are suspicious at best.

President Trump has also faced accusations of using the USPS crisis to block voters who might vote against him from being counted in the election. "They want three and a half billion dollars for something that'll turn out to be fraudulent, that's election money basically,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News last week. “They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots." Despite his lofty claims, there is no history of widespread fraud with mail-in ballots; a 2017 study from the Brennan Center for Justice stated that voter fraud accounted for 0.00004 percent and 0.0009 percent of all votes. Even if you believe that Trump really cares about making sure Americans are safe from the trials and tribulations of voter fraud, he has alluded to his political motivations in his favorite medium: a tweet. He tweeted, "Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans." It has also been found that delays with voting by mail would likely aid President Trump in the election. In a study from Marquette Law School, it was found that 55 percent of registered Democrats planned to vote by mail, while only 15 percent of Republicans said the same. Based on President Trump’s words—as well as the fact that mail-in voting would harm his political agenda—it is clear that he is using the USPS to help win the election.

And with the USPS delivering 472.1 million pieces of mail daily, the problems with the USPS are even greater than the potential to delay absentee and mail-in ballots. Americans rely on the USPS for their prescription medicine, paychecks, and other important documents. By causing delays to the USPS, DeJoy and Trump are not only threatening the constitutional rights of Americans, but their wellbeing, too. The actions of these two men simply cannot be allowed to stand, and they must face the appropriate consequences.

The best way to put an end to this misuse of power is to make sure that your vote counts this November. Request an absentee ballot if your state requires it, and call your local election office to inquire about how much postage will cost you. Mail your ballot as early as you possibly can, at least a week before the deadline. By taking the necessary steps to make sure your vote counts, you can help make sure that DeJoy and Trump’s actions don’t affect your constitutional rights. For those who are unable to vote, you can help reverse DeJoy’s actions by calling or writing to your senators and asking them to endorse stimulus funding that will help the Post Office out of its financial crisis. By taking a stand against DeJoy and Trump, we can ensure that we protect our right to vote and that the next president is the one that the people of the United States truly want.