“Save our USPS” reads a hand-written sign outside Monrovia’s post office. The postal service, continuously ranked as the “most trusted” agency by Americans, is not only under siege by the massive use of email and other disruptions that have cut into the postal service’s vast and highly sophisticated delivery system, but by changes instituted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy
The USPS, which does not get taxpayer money, relies on selling stamps and related mailing essentials to survive. It is a critical lifeline for every resident in the United States, particularly for those citizens who rely on it for just about everything from prescription drug delivery to social security checks, among other things.
Now, as the election draws near, President Trump and DeJoy have shaken up the entire organization’s spirit.
DeJoy’s assignment drew considerable criticism after he eliminated overtime, removed sorting machines and made other changes at the U.S.P.S. In response, several states, including California, filed lawsuits challenging the administration over cutbacks that could affect the November election. Amid the controversy in late August, DeJoy announced that he would suspend any policy or operational changes until after the election and testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight Committee.
Despite DeJoy’s assertions that changes would pause, mail service has been disrupted nationwide in recent weeks. Last Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sought a preliminary injunction to immediately reverse changes at the USPS. According to the Los Angeles Times, the move is “an effort to immediately undo the changes, instead of waiting for the resolution of the existing lawsuit, which accuses the Trump administration of trying to hobble the Postal Service ahead of the election.”
While the USPS has been suffering financially for years, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered an “existential threat to the agency,” according to Vox. Amid the pandemic, mail-in voting has become the safest alternative to the possible dangers of having voters wait in long lines to cast votes and officials expects to see an increase in ballots through the USPS. Before the pandemic, voting by mail was already becoming an increasingly common practice in the United States, with 25% of voters nationwide mailing their ballots in 2016 and 2018.
A state-by-state analysis conducted by The New York Times concluded that 76% of Americans are eligible to vote by mail in 2020, a record number. The analysis predicts that 80 million ballots could be cast by mail this election — more than double of what was seen in 2016. In July, USPS warned 46 states that the service might not be able to meet the state’s deadlines for requesting and casting last-minute absentee ballots.
Last month, the House of Representatives voted to include an emergency grant of $25 billion to the post office to facilitate the predicted flood of mail ballots but it is unlikely to pass the senate. According to Vox, “Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said he supports including $10 billion in funding for the Postal Service in a coronavirus aid legislative package, ‘just to make sure the post office is on good terms going into the November election.’ The White House has said it may support additional funding for the agency as a part of a coronavirus aid package.”
In a Sept. 3 news release, the USPS announced an “Expanded Election Mail Task Force” to “enhance already-existing election mail efforts.” The task force members reviewed current plans to “ensure and affirm that the Postal Service is prepared to deliver on the election. All parties at the meeting are fully focused on the mission and the importance of ensuring the election remains the number one priority for the more than 630,000 employees of the Postal Service,” the release said.
“The meeting reaffirmed my faith that the Postal Service is fully ready, willing and committed to deliver the nation’s Election Mail timely and securely,” said DeJoy “and our organization is completely aligned on fulfilling our important role in the democratic process.”
The House Oversight and Reform Committee in now launching an investigation into DeJoy following reports in The Washington Post Sunday that DeJoy reimbursed employees of New Breed Logistics, a company he previously ran, for donating to GOP candidates.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the committee, said in a statement to CNN Tuesday that if the allegations are true, the postmaster general “could face criminal exposure — not only for his actions in North Carolina, but also for lying to our Committee under oath.”
As postal delays continue, the Postal Service has become part of a political hot potato ahead of the November election. Some Democrats accused President Donald Trump of trying to undermine the Postal Service because of his opposition to vote-by-mail and have called for DeJoy’s resignation or suspension amid the current investigation.