The United States Postal Service (USPS) has made headlines recently as nationwide mail slowdowns have led to growing concern among voters about the fate of absentee ballots in the upcoming election. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there are expected to be an unprecedented number of people voting by mail. Some states saw the demand for mail-in ballots increase by five times the amount from the previous election during the primaries. This demand is expected to increase even more for the general election in November, but changes to the USPS may undermine voters using this method, as their ballots may not be received on time.
In late July, the Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Thomas J. Marshall, issued letters to all 50 states and the District of Columbia informing them that their planned deadlines for mail-in voting may not be adequate in light of mail slowdowns, especially in states that have new plans for universal mail-in voting. For context, the USPS has been experiencing delays to mail delivery since the appointment of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. DeJoy, in an effort to fulfill the president’s desire to cut costs of the post office, has developed initiatives which will make it hard for postal workers to gain overtime or fulfill late delivery trips, decommission many mail-processing machines, and decrease post offices’ hours— all things which ensure packages arrive in a timely manner. However, DeJoy has recently announced that he has rescinded these initiatives temporarily in order to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail,” and on October 1, any “unforeseen demand” of the USPS will be met with additional standby resources to accommodate election voting. The changes to USPS operations are still expected to come sometime after the election.
To ensure that the USPS stays afloat amid coronavirus concerns, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is looking to pass a 25 billion dollar relief bill through the House that will ensure the survival of the USPS and hopefully improve its delivery rates with regard to the election. Pelosi has called all representatives back from a recess that was supposed to last until September, writing a letter to her colleagues stressing the necessity of the post office. Without this bill, USPS funding comes strictly from within itself with its sales of stamps and package delivery services; it receives no taxpayer funding. There will be a vote on this bill on Saturday, August 22.
Meanwhile, President Trump has plainly stated that he does not support giving financial aid to the post office, and thus will not sign the bill even if it gets through Congress. In an interview with Fox Business Network, he stated that “[Democrats] need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.” This comes alongside several reports that the president believes mail-in voting to increase voter fraud, and is actively trying to suppress it in the election.
If you plan to vote by mail in the November election, request your mail-in ballot as soon as possible and send it prior to the deadline to be certain your vote gets counted. For more information about how to cast your ballot this year, visit https://www.whenweallvote.org/safevoting/.
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