Just when Americans need it most, and with an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots expected this November, the U.S. Postal Service is under an assault that at this point can be considered little short of sabotage.
President Donald Trump appears intent on undermining mail-in balloting in any way possible, fearing it disadvantages his chance of re-election. He has attempted to draw an imaginary distinction between mail-in voting and absentee voting, sued Nevada for a law it passed that allows ballots to be mailed to all registered voters, and floated the idea of actually postponing the election. Now he has a new postmaster general whose first major action was to slow down mail delivery.
The Postal Service is an American institution that actually predates the country itself. It is in the Constitution, and its mandate is for reliable, timely delivery to all. It does not work just what would be the more profitable routes, as a private company might. It doesn’t skip the sparsely populated corners of this country. Americans’ reliance on the USPS has only grown during the pandemic. Housebound, they have driven volume to Christmas levels, ordering all manner of necessities and niceties, including prescription medications.
As Minnesota’s Aug. 11 primary approaches and with November looming, reports are popping up across the country of serious delays in mail delivery. In Baltimore, residents report going more than two weeks without delivery.
Those delays were at the order of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee confirmed by a Postal Service Board of Governors itself all appointed by Trump. He is the first postmaster general in decades not to have come from the Postal Service. A recent Washington Post report showed that he and his wife are heavily invested in competitors and contractors to the Postal Service. Despite the higher volume, DeJoy’s move was to slash overtime, even if mail was left undelivered. There may well be ways to improve the USPS, but undermining its primary mission is not one of them.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a recent TV interview that she and other senators, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are pressing for answers and attempting to restore the cuts.
“Yes, it’s about ballots, but it’s also about lifesaving medication. If they mess with stuff like this they are literally going to mess with people’s lives,” she said. Some Republicans are joining the effort to reverse DeJoy’s directive on delivery cutbacks. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., said in a letter to DeJoy, “Delaying mail service is unacceptable. Do not continue down this road.”
DeJoy said Friday that the Postal Service has “ample capacity” to handle election mail, but he said budget restraint is needed — the USPS lost $2.2 billion in the quarter that ended in June — and he reshuffled his executive team to focus on “core business operations.”
Mail carriers may be the original essential workers. Who else has a motto chiseled in stone that reads, “Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”?
More than 60 postal workers have died from COVID-19. Thousands more have been infected. It’s time for us to have their backs. More than ever, they need us and we need them.