USPS faces crisis amid upcoming presidential election



Naomi Bitton, News Editor

Over the last few weeks, the Trump administration has put immense pressure on the Senate to oppose Congress’ $25 billion relief package of additional funds to the USPS in order to handle the estimated surge of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic. Without such necessary funds, the USPS is at risk of being unable to properly manage the mass of ballots for the upcoming presidential election, according to President Trump.

The president announced via Twitter on July 30 that he feels the election should be delayed until people can “properly, securely and safely vote” in-person. Otherwise, he stated, “2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”

According to BBC News, there is no evidence of widespread fraud caused by mail-in voting. However, there have been isolated cases of postal ballot fraud in the past. In June, four individuals, including two councilmen, were charged with tampering and falsifying mail-in votes for the district of Paterson, New Jersey.

A 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice also found that voter fraud in the U.S. is extremely rare at about .00005%. There has been speculation that a rise in postal voting would help turnout among Democratic voters, as more people can vote without worries of contracting COVID-19. All the while, there is still no strong evidence that either party would gain an advantage. 

On June 16, Louis DeJoy, a businessman and major donor for Trump and the Republican Party, was officially appointed the new Postmaster General and CEO of the USPS. As Postmaster General, DeJoy recently introduced changes to the USPS that reduce employee overtime, as well as mail-sorting machines from postal facilities in order to increase mail processing capability and ban “late” or “extra” delivery trips that could hinder mail traffic flow.

However, in an interview with Vice, USPS spokesperson David Partenheimer stated that the USPS “routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes.”

Postal workers have commented that though having machines replaced is common, this change is more extensive. Congressional Democrats have also publicly expressed their concerns that due to such changes, mail-in ballots will not be delivered to election offices on time.

Trump stated in an interview with Fox Business Network that not coming to an agreement on the relief package prohibits the USPS from receiving any funding. He further commented on the matter stating that without additional funds “[the USPS] can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 12th District) said that the number of mail-in votes for this presidential election is expected to at least double in comparison to former years. Considering the recent changes, the USPS alerted 46 states that it cannot guarantee that ballots will be delivered under current deadlines, The Washington Post reported.

Pelosi and 173 House Democrats recently penned a letter calling for DeJoy to reverse his new plans for the USPS until the election concludes. Additionally, 21 states announced a multi-pronged federal lawsuit against Trump, Dejoy and the USPS, arguing that the changes violate the Voting Rights Act and impede the states’ ability to run a fair and free election.

After severe backlash and with the lawsuit in motion, DeJoy announced on Aug. 18 that all USPS changes would be suspended until after the 2020 election. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York asked DeJoy for a written explanation of which policies will be rescinded, stating that “there’s a lot of mistrust because of statements he and the President have made about cutbacks in mail delivery during COVID.”

In a congressional hearing on Aug.24, DeJoy said that the USPS will do everything we can to handle and deliver election mail in a manner consistent with the proven processes and procedures that we have relied upon for years.

The Pace Press interviewed two students on their opinion about the USPS’s changes and importance during this time, as well as their individual voting plan.

University sophomore Ava Chance stated, “I do plan on voting, and I will be doing so through mail because I’m a resident of a different state. I know absentee ballots are common among college students, however, I expect there would be an influx in mail-in voting this year due to COVID that might make it more difficult for votes to be counted effectively.”

Chance continued, “I don’t know too much about [the USPS’s] recent changes, but the competency of USPS is necessary for a lot of reasons where mail-in voting is concerned. Steps should be taken to ensure that everyone’s ballot is counted correctly I imagine that a funding increase for USPS would be one of these steps.”

University junior Emily Drachman commented, “I will definitely vote, as everyone who is able to should. I will have to vote by mail as I am registered to vote in Maryland but am in New York for school. I think that the USPS should definitely be getting more support, and be made to be as efficient as it can be, especially now as it is a crucial institution and will be vital to this year’s election as people are not wanting to vote in person due to the pandemic.”

“I think we’re also in a unique time with the pandemic and the election which makes any way people can connect not in-person super important,” Drachman added. 

The states of Hawaii, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and California are holding “all-mail” ballot elections, which means registered voters will automatically be sent postal ballots that can be sent back or deposited on Election Day. Several states including Louisiana and Texas will require voters to submit valid reasoning for voting by mail. 

Gov. Cuomo announced on Thursday that voters will be able to send in ballots by mail due to the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19. Unlike other states, New York residents will have to request an absentee ballot online, in person, over the phone or by mail. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27.

In the meantime, you can text “USPS” to 50409, which will automatically send a letter to your Senators and Representatives to demand funding and show your support. You can also purchase stamps, send mail and submit mail-in ballots as early as possible to ensure delivery by Election Day.