By Zach Brown
More and more voters are deciding to mail-in their ballots this fall because of their health and safety concerns about going to the polls in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why it’s now even more imperative than ever that we have a United States Postal Service (USPS) that is both well-funded and well-operated in advance of what could possibly be the largest test of our mail-in voting system in American history.
Instead of better equipping our postal service for the challenge of November’s election, the Trump administration is actively attempting to dismantle it. Last month, newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy instituted an onslaught of new changes to the USPS services that have been shown to significantly slow delivery times, perplex the USPS’ own workers, and overall just plain degrade the efficacy of the United States Postal Service. Who would have thought appointing someone with no postal service experience to lead the USPS would turn out so poorly?
Some of these “urgent changes” included ordering employees to leave mail and packages behind rather than work overtime or make multiple trips to complete the routes, drastically reshuffling numerous day-to-day operations oversight positions, instituting a management hiring freeze, and removing more than 600 mail sorting machines. Rightfully so, these sudden changes served as an urgent call to action to save the post office and DeJoy was pressured from all angles as Public Citizen, state attorneys general and other groups sued the Post Office; legislators demanded he testify before Congress; advocacy organizations began looking into his numerous financial conflicts of interest; and numerous petitions were circulated. And while the immense pressure caused DeJoy to seemingly pull back on his caustic changes— informing everyone that he would effectively wait until after the election to tear the postal service apart, there is still much work to be done.
To start, answers still need to be given as to why these changes were even initiated in the first place. While DeJoy did testify last Friday in the Senate, the answers he gave were… insufficient to say the least. DeJoy actively dodged and dived around direct questions and the answers he did give provided some rather dubious highlights: a refusal to replace the mailboxes and mail-sorting machines he already removed and a reluctance to provide information about whether he conducted an analysis on the policy changes’ effects on veterans, the elderly, or families who send financial documents by mail. DeJoy even went as far as declaring that $10 billion was definitely enough emergency funds to address the COVID-19 shortfall, a mark less than half of what the Postal Service Board of Governors requested earlier this year. And although Monday’s fireworks display of a hearing in the House of Representatives fared significantly better in putting DeJoy’s ineptitude on full display, it’s clear that DeJoy is merely a symptom of a disease for which expansive USPS funding and election protection is the only cure.
Wow. Rep. Lynch is completely tearing into Louis DeJoy. pic.twitter.com/WsGxdwAkV9
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) August 24, 2020
Accordingly, now is the time more than ever to demand more from our nation’s leaders to save the USPS and protect our mail-in voting system. Last Saturday, the House swiftly passed the Delivering for America Act, allocating $25 billion dollars to the USPS and putting a halt to the controversial operational changes that DeJoy has put in place. The Act also requires that all official election mail be automatically given priority status and treated as “first-class mail,” an important protection designed to help guarantee that mail-in ballots are delivered in time to be counted in the upcoming election. Saturday was undoubtedly a great start.
But what’s next? Two words, everyone: maintain pressure. This last weekend we saw thousands of people all across the country protest as a part of the national “Save the Post Office Saturday”, organizing at post offices to show lawmakers that an attack on the post office is an attack on all of us — and that we’re ready to fight. And, thousands more also came out yesterday to events held across the country hosted by the American Postal Workers Union.
We must continue to demand that the Post Office is fully funded and in peak condition to face the challenges of what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most unique elections in American history.
Take action TODAY by calling your Senators by using this hotline (928) 236-2402 and telling them to fund the USPS with a $25 billion emergency appropriation and to stop the service cuts once and for all!
Without the Senate stepping up, not only will seniors, veterans and people unable to leave the house because of the COVID-19 pandemic who rely on the post office for medicines and other essential deliveries be failed by our nation’s leaders, our democracy may very well suffer too.