The Crisis the United States Postal Service is Facing
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is the focus of an intense fight in the American Presidential campaign. What does the US postal service have to do with the upcoming presidential election? A lot of Americans are choosing to vote by mailing in ballots due to the threat of the coronavirus. 4 years ago, 1 quarter of voters voted by mail. This year that number could be doubled, according to the NY Times. About 80 million voters could use the option to vote by mail. This leaves it up to mail carriers to take the voting ballots and deliver them to electoral councils who can count the votes. Ballots that arrive after the elections or have no correct date stamp can not be included in the count. If mail carriers are not able to deliver on time or the appropriate date stamps are missing, this leaves many Americans without a credible vote.
The USPS is the only postal service that can deliver these mailing ballots because it is an independent agency run by the federal government. Although the USPS is a government agency, it does not run off of taxpayer money (Bogage). The USPS can deliver billions of letters and packages to all areas, even remote areas all over the US, like the constitution requires. Lately, though, recent cutbacks for mail carriers have led to substantial delays.
Recently, a new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy was installed at the USPS. Louis DeJoy is a rich friend and ally of Trump. He donated large amounts of money to Trump's presidential campaigns. DeJoy, who has financial interests in a competitor of the USPS, had decided to cut some funds to make the USPS more efficient (Hiltzik).
Due to coronavirus, the USPS’s financial problem had been aggravated. To combat this, the USPS had requested $25 billion in emergency funding. Initially, President Trump verbally declined this request, but later signed a bill that included emergency funding for the USPS (Panetta)
The USPS has been in trouble for a few years now. Between 2007 and 2018, the USPS suffered a loss of close to 68 billion dollars (Van Houwelingen). During the pandemic, a shortage of letters and extra costs contributed to even more loss. DeJoy limits overtime for mail carriers and some sorting machines have been shut off. There are many delays and some Americans complain that even their medicines are often not delivered on time. USPS warned the US States that they have to alter their deadlines for the delivery and return of the ballots because the USPS can not guarantee timely delivery of the ballots.
The Democratic party is proposing to donate extra funds to handle all the election mail, but the Republicans are not in agreement to spend these emergency funds. The Republicans argue that it is giving a lot of money to a “dying” company. Trump claimed in a tweet that voting by mail will be “unsafe” and “rigged.”
According to The Federal News Network, the Postal Service projects that it will completely run out of money by April of 2021 if package levels return to how it was before the pandemic hit.
Former President Obama says that Trump is trying to actively discourage the voting process by sabotaging the USPS. Lawrence Douglas, a professor of Law and an expert on the American voting system is afraid that Trump might claim his victory by announcing he is the winner on election day and that he will claim that the to be counted mail-in ballots were dishonest and rigged.
More and more governments are looking at alternatives to help save the USPS. In some states like Connecticut, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, options are looked into, for instance, special drop off boxes for voting ballots at various places are in use. If possible, voting in person would be the best option to help aid the USPS crisis. Otherwise, it is crucial to get your mail-in ballot as soon as possible.