Most organizations rely on shallow, feel-good slogans crafted by PR managers to influence their customers. However, that is not the case with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Due to its excellent record and reliability, few Americans doubt the sincerity of the postal service’s unofficial slogan that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
This fall, the USPS will again be called upon, this time to complete a delivery more precious and more valuable than ever before. It will carry the ballots of millions of American citizens and with them the future of the country.
That is, so long as efforts by the current administration to stifle the USPS’ ability to carry out its mission are effectively resisted.
Voting During a Pandemic
There is a plausible scenario in which the upcoming presidential elections are disrupted by the ongoing pandemic. Under this scenario, citizens will be unable to venture to polling places due to restrictions put in place by public health authorities, or they may simply be unwilling to do so for their own protection. Thankfully, that is not the case in the United States.
Due to our acknowledgment that voting is a universal right of citizenship, we have developed processes to allow individuals who cannot physically travel to polling places to cast their ballots by mail. Americans have been voting by mail since the Revolution, and in 2016, nearly 25 percent of voters cast their ballots through the mail.
Americans depend on the Post Office to promptly, reliably & securely deliver mail & essential services. I'm alarmed that @USPS nonpartisan mission is now being undermined for political gain. We need a bipartisan commitment to saving #USPS, fixing it & getting it working again.
— Senator Jack Reed (@SenJackReed) August 14, 2020
Most starkly, he tweeted, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Fresh Concerns for USPS
Thankfully, the president does not have the power to delay the election. However, he does possess substantial ability to undermine the organization that tens of millions of Americans will be relying on to deliver their ballots – the USPS.
While the president should be using his authority to bolster the USPS and ensure that it is entirely prepared for what may be its most important mission to date, he is instead doing the opposite. Trump repeatedly threatened to block the USPS’ access to $10 billion in loans provided by the CARES coronavirus relief bill until the agency enacted policy changes he favored before reaching an agreement with the postal service in July.
Changes Under DeJoy’s Leadership
In June, the USPS came under new leadership in the form of Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. DeJoy’s appointment engendered a variety of concerns including the blatant partisan nature of his appointment (DeJoy has donated millions of dollars to the GOP and President Trump’s campaigns), his lack of credentials (DeJoy never worked for the organization which he now heads), and his financial conflicts of interest (DeJoy has invested tens of millions of dollars in the USPS’ competitors).
Since taking over the reins of power, DeJoy has made headlines and validated many previous fears through operational changes he has enacted.
DeJoy has plans to eliminate overtime, freeze hiring, halt late-delivery trips, and cut post office operating hours. While DeJoy claims these reforms are necessary to remain fiscally solvent, reports already show delays in mail service, and that may just be the beginning.
Last Friday, DeJoy announced sweeping changes to the organizational structure of USPS leadership – a move that instantly displaced 23 executives. This included two top-level officials tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operation of delivering mail while strengthening DeJoy’s control over the agency.
Soon, the USPS will see a surge in activity due to the prevalence of mail-in voting in this November’s election. Delays in the delivery of mail-in ballots could cause millions of lawful votes arriving too late to be counted, and with it millions of American citizens being disenfranchised.
Protect the USPS
Since President Trump claims to be concerned about the credibility of this election, perhaps he should focus his attention on ensuring that this outcome is avoided rather than attempting to subvert the postal service every chance he gets.
The USPS may be due for difficult reforms. However, now is simply not the right moment for the actions being taken by President Trump and Postmaster General Dejoy. However, this is not the time for tough decision-making – President Trump and Postmaster General Dejoy should know that.
With tens of millions of Americans relying on the postal service to deliver their ballots this fall, now is not the time to stand in the way of emergency relief funding or to do anything that will result in delivery delays.
Instead, now is the time for our government to fully support the USPS by providing ample funding and meaningful oversight, and for us as citizens to not allow anyone or anything to undermine it.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.