Trump Administration’s USPS Restructuring Leads to Fears of Mass Voter Disenfranchisement

The recent steps taken by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and Trump campaign mega-donor, have led to fears about the Postal Service’s (USPS’s) ability to handle mail-in ballots during the November elections. Following DeJoy’s appointment in June, he took drastic steps to cut the Postal Service’s costs, including stopping overtime work and removing many sorting machines and mailboxes without notice. This has led to mail delays in many states.

Following these changes, the USPS sent a letter to 46 states and the District of Columbia warning them that USPS would likely not be able to deliver ballots on time for the November election. These delays have raised fears about the mass disenfranchisement of voters who may have their ballots declared invalid if they do not reach their state’s elections office by November 3rd. These worries come as an unprecedented number of voters are expected to vote by mail this election cycle due to coronavirus.

President Trump often criticizes the post office and has consistently made false claims about mail-in voting, saying that it will lead to mass fraud. Trump’s critiques have been viewed as an attempt to stoke fear and distrust in the elections process. President Trump admitted to his goal of mass disenfranchisement during an interview when discussing why he did not support the $25 billion in funding Democrats have proposed for the USPS: “They [the Democrats] need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he stated. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting…”

More voters are expected to cast their ballot by mail this election cycle due to the pandemic, with one poll finding that 39% of registered voters preferred to vote by mail this November. In contrast, only 24% of voters utilized absentee ballots during the 2016 election.

Former President Obama has accused President Trump of “kneecapping” the Postal Service in order to limit voting. A joint investigation into DeJoy’s actions has been launched by Congressional Democrats and several states are considering suing the Trump administration to stop the changes. Pennsylvania has already altered its election laws in response to possible mail delays.

On Sunday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for an emergency vote on a bill which would force the USPS to roll back its changes until after the November elections. “Alarmingly, across the nation, we see the devastating effects of the President’s campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters,” stated Speaker Pelosi in a letter to Democratic representatives. Pelosi’s decision to call the vote was unprecedented, as Congress rarely meets during the parties’ conventions.

Postal workers have also expressed frustration at the new changes. “This is forced. These are things that don’t have to happen,” stated one postal worker about the delays.

Sources: CNN 8/16/20; CNN 8/15/20; CNN 8/10/20; The Guardian 8/13/20; Washington Post 8/16/20; CNN 8/16/20; CNN 8/13/20; Speaker of the House Letter 8/16/20; Washington Post 7/30/20

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